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Published February 23 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Kids dreaming big

Like many Americans this week, my family has been watching the Olympics. I wouldn’t say “glued” to the set would be the right description. But it’s always on, in the background, underneath the sounds of my young daughter’s fighting over “who started it.”

We’ve watched a lot of events with our daughters: snowboarding, skiing and even short track speed skating (I suspect that’s mostly because Apolo Ohno was on “Dancing With the Stars.”) But without a doubt, the premier event for us is figure skating. I suppose it’s not surprising. For years, little girls have been drawn to the music, costumes and beauty of the sport and inspired by the greats from Peggy Fleming to Kristi Yamaguchi.

I remember in 1976, my sister and I were so inspired by Dorothy Hamill that we made my mom wake us up at 6:30 in the morning so we could walk down to the neighborhood rink to start training. We made it for about an hour before our cold, runny noses and lack of talent forced us to go home. We should have just gotten the Hamill haircut like everybody else.

Four years earlier, we signed up for gymnastics classes after watching Olga Korbut in the 1972 Summer Games. And how many little kids hit the hockey rink after 1980’s “Miracle on Ice”?

So it’s not surprising that after watching the Olympics all week, my older daughter Laura has decided that she wants to be a professional ice skater when she grows up. Either that, she says, or an astronomer.

For her, the inspiration comes from Mark Ladwig, the Moorhead native and Olympic pairs skater. Mark and his partner, Amanda Evora, are incredibly sweet and accessible to young skaters when they come back to Fargo-Moorhead. My daughter cherishes the picture I took of her with Mark at last year’s Moorhead Ice Show.

Even though Laura is ready to lace up the skates for a lifetime career, she’s also a little torn. I recently took her to the youth symphony to see violin superstar Midori. After the concert, she begged me to take my old viola out of mothballs so she could learn to play like Midori. What’s a girl to do? Be a figure skater? Play the violin? Both?

Either way, I love to watch my daughter dream. In her mind, she might be the world’s first internationally acclaimed violin-playing astronomer on ice skates. She might be a teacher, a doctor or a stay-at-home mom. Her possibilities are endless, as are the possibilities of children everywhere.

So while it will be a little sad to watch this year’s Olympic torch go out, it’s pretty amazing to think about all of the children around the world who have been inspired by it. Most will never become professional figure skaters or skiers, but every four years they can see what can happen if you work hard and dream big. And that’s a lesson worth more than all of the gold medals in Vancouver.


Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and a personality for WDAY AM 970.