Olympic Events Every Kid Should Watch (Plus a Few They Should Skip)
Watch: Mountain Biking
Every parent knows that a surefire way to have a child not like something is to tell him or her that you like it, or even worse, that something is an "excellent family activity." The last thing most kids want to do is a fun, family activity. But the fact remains that mountain biking is an excellent opportunity for the whole family to get some exercise and fresh air. By letting your kids watch the event, you have a chance of inspiring that family mountain biking trip that you've dreamt of ever since you saw your first L.L. Bean catalogue. Just be sure to yell, "Mountain biking seems pretty dangerous, I'm not sure you're ready," while your kids are watching it. Then they'll be eager to prove you wrong. If you play your cards right, you could be out with your family accidentally riding through poison oak by lunch.
For me, the Olympics are about showing my children silly mascots, and attempting to grow their interests in cultures and activities that will enhance their lives. As such, there is no way I'm letting my kids watch the shooting competitions. Why don't they just have a playing-with-matches competition while they're at it. Seriously, if my kids want to learn about guns, they can watch the news. And that is not to disrespect the fine athletes and excellent marksman. It's just that as parents, we spend so much time telling our kids that guns are dangerous and bad. It would really hurt our credibility to then have our kids see someone using one to win a gold medal.
There are very few activities in which a short kid can brag to his friends about his amazingly low center of gravity. If you're raising a child who has a better chance of winning a limbo dance contest than slam dunking a basketball, exposing him or her to Olympic style wrestling will demonstrate that there's a great sport for smaller people to get big wins. Also, the sooner you show a child an image of two grown men rolling around on the floor in what are essentially leotards, the less weird it will seem when they're older.
The only difference between Olympic basketball and the NBA All-Star game is that during the Olympics you don't have a dog catching a Frisbee on the court during halftime. And if a team from another country even has a chance against us, it's because some of their players play in our league. I love basketball, and it is a great sport for children. But skip the Olympic version. All it will teach your kids is what Italian men look like when they're humiliated.
If you show your child Olympic archery, there's a good chance she'll ask you if it is some kind of reality TV version of The Hunger Games. And in a sense, the question wouldn't be that far off. Most parents may not expect kids to become enthralled with archery, even with the amazing heroine Katniss Everdeen removing every eyeball from the squirrels in district 12. But it is a nice way to make an ancient sport seem relevant. Maybe baseball should try this.
Most parents might initially think fencing would be a great way to show children that behind every great movie or video game sword fight is a guy who looks like a naked storm trooper. But unlike archery, sword fighting has been so overused by video games that kids would quickly compare the two and say, "Game Over" to Olympic fencing. Think of it from the gamer's perspective. Olympic fencing won't allow you to exchange bonus points for body armor, there are no cheat codes, no secret moves, and no backstory in which one contestant disgraced the other's village. Essentially, Olympic fencing is just two grownups poking each other with old car antennas.
Watch: Anything Paralympic
When most kids see someone with a physical handicap for the first time, they can't help but stare. They don't mean to be rude, the child is often just innocently curious. But the entire situation can be awkward and potentially offensive. So why not let your child's first glimpse of someone who may be missing an arm or leg come during a moment of athletic excellence. It's also a great time for a parent to explain that being physically challenged is normal for some people, and that it's no big deal.
If you've ever been on a trampoline, then you know that they are a really fun way for your family to break their bones right from the comfort of your own backyard. I have a few problems with allowing kids to watch Olympic trampoline. First of all, I never want my kids to start to like a sport which will require me to assemble something. I also don't want a dead circle of grass in my yard. And finally, if your kids do get bitten by the trampoline bug, good luck keeping them from jumping on the bed. No one denies that trampolining is great exercise. But toned calves aren't much use when they have to be strapped into a walking boot.
If the Olympics are going to inspire your child to participate in a new sport, it's always nice if that sport practices in a strip mall sandwiched between a Subway and a Starbucks. Parents are busy. Unlike soccer or baseball where you might have sit in your car or mull around a field for an hour to wait for practice to end, with taekwondo you can drop your kid off, remind him or her to bow, and then go next door for a latte and some Wi-Fi. Most parents are more than willing to go out of their way to help a child enjoy a sport or pursue her dream. But it's also nice when the child's dream is conveniently located next to your favorite coffee shop.
Jeremy Greenberg is stand-up comedian, joke writer, blogger, and the author of 5 hilarious books. Learn more at www.jeremygreenberg.com.