My husband and I are both sleepyheads this week, thanks to staying up late every night glued to the Olympics. We're not major sports fans, so I'm not sure where this newfangled fascination comes from. I suppose it's simply the enjoyment of watching the best-of-the-best compete and conquer.
Families play their own version of the Olympic Games. If you think about it, parenthood pretty much covers all the sports we've been viewing on TV this week. And no marathon or triathlon has ever been created that can match the endurance parents must rally for the long haul.
We're constantly running - to answer a baby's cry, to the store for more milk, to the pediatrician's office, to daycare and to work. The running is incessant. As long as there are children at home, life is full of daily sprints and marathons, with many hurdles to keep us hopping.
One challenging event is the Colicky Baby Relay, where spouses take turns walking their wailing newborn around the house all night long. I can hear the announcer now: "The handoff to Mom is good! Dad wobbles into the bedroom; he stumbles onto the bed - Dad is out!"
This relay is a great way to strengthen the muscles for future weightlifting events. Everyone knows that children are 50 percent heavier when asleep and want to be carried well into toddlerhood. It's why parents of young children usually sport buff biceps.
And this is good, because a lot of clean-up is required when kids master the discus throw. It's first learned at mealtime during the terrible twos, and later perfected outdoors with the flying disc. This leads to dads competing in wall-climbing and repelling as they retrieve flying disks stuck on the rooftop.
Aquatics are also covered, in the tub, at the pool and in nature. I know more than one master of the Fully-Clothed Nose Dive. This unintentional maneuver is most often performed lakeside, to rescue the toddler who wanders too close to the water's edge while feeding the ducks.
Mothers have a sense of balance to rival any gymnasts.' We're accustomed to tiptoeing along the narrowest beams, overloaded with the gear required for multiple kids with totally different schedules. Just when we get the hang of it, life flips us over, yet somehow we manage to land on our feet.
We need a sense of balance during those long games of parental soccer. Our personal goals, such as weight loss or keeping a clean house, are the ball. They're kicked around, kicked out of bounds, and it takes ages to line things up well enough to sink one where it's supposed to go. A parent can play the game a very long time without ever scoring a single point for themselves.
Basketball is easy in comparison. Everyone takes part in slam-dunking laundry into hampers, trash into the garbage can, dishes into the sink. Even baby can play - they're so good at dribbling.
A couple of Olympic sports may be more common in households with boys. Archery is taught with plastic crossbows and arrows with suction cup tips. Fencing practice happens with plastic pirate swords, light sabers and old mossy sticks.
Shooting takes place with Nerf guns, super-soaker water guns and old mossy sticks shaped like guns.
Wrestling is one sport I'd rather not observe, but my kids insist on playing it daily. If someone could explain why boys enjoy these pointless fights, please clue me in. I suppose it might also help explain why my sons are pretty darn good at boxing, too.
Finally, we have my favorite sport, the one that drives kids crazy: Verbal Volleyball.
"Ask your dad."
"Go ask mom."
"I said to ask Dad."
"He said to ask you!"
Despite all of that - all our strength, endurance and courage in the face of opposition, no one waits to hang a medal around moms' and dads' necks. We have to find our awards ourselves, while we are tired and questioning our abilities.
One came my way the other day when someone gave me a heartfelt compliment on my children. I was flooded with a glowing reassurance that perhaps, I had done well in this game of parenting. It was just the boost I needed to keep on running.
Kari Apted may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.