Parenting Gabby Douglas

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By John Hubbuch

One of the best thing about sports is its spontaneity. You never know what's going to happen. So watching the evening Olympic broadcast of taped events is not all that interesting to me. But then I don't watch the same movie over and over. Except "Hoosiers".                                        

But you would have to be an Olympics Grinch if you didn't get caught up in the story of Gabby Douglas, the African American teenager,  who won the gold medal in the all round women's gymnastic competition. She was deserving, cute  and American. We got to know her back story including that she left her home and family as a youngster to be trained by some super-duper coach. She got homesick and pleaded with her mom to come home, but mom said no. 

When I heard this I have to admit there was a cloud that passed over this sunny story. Wasn't it  kind of mean to send a little girl away to live  with strangers? That's what rich Dickensian parents did when they sent their children away to boarding schools-- and they were often  the bad guys. Maybe it's closer to parental malpractice than exemplary parenting.                   

What if Gabby had only gotten silver? Or no medal? Or had failed to make the team? I suppose an obvious response is that Gabby wanted to follow her dream, but every parent knows how mom and dad can shape those dreams.                        

At least the Douglas family did not uproot all the siblings and move to Gabby's training venue. Some Olympic parents do. I wonder if brother or sister get to vote on being uprooted from home and hearth to where the sibling can better chase his or  her dream. What about little brother's dream of making the 6th grade basketball team,  or sister's dream of becoming editor of the high scholl newspaper?             

It would be an interesting longitudinal study to track Olympic medalists, non-medalists and fail- to- qualifiers and their families over time to see if they are happier  than the population as a whole. Gabby is in a sport that has commercial possibilities, so she'll at least get paid for her success, but then all that glitters isn't gold. Time will tell.

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