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Proud parents can be as captivating as their child

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, August 1, 2012, at 11:43 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, August 2, 2012, at 10:16 a.m.

So far my favorite Olympic moment isn’t Ryan Lochte’s 400-meter individual medley or Dana Vollmer’s world-record butterfly or Missy Franklin’s impressive backstroke.

It’s a 45-second clip of Lynn and Rick Raisman — U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents — watching her performance on the uneven bars.

Put it this way: If intense parenting was an Olympic event, these folks would win gold.

Since NBC broadcast the clip Sunday evening — wisely putting microphones on the Raismans ahead of time and pointing a camera their way during Aly’s performance — it has garnered thousands of hits on YouTube. And no wonder. It’s awkward, hilarious and, for millions of parents around the world, totally believable.

Raisman’s mother shifts in her seat and chants, “Let’s go, let’s go, handstand, let’s go…” and “Come on, Aly … Come on!”

Rick Raisman shifts and leans along with his wife in an impressive display of synchronized bleacher-sitting but stays silent until one final, “Stick it, please … Stick it!” and a fist-pumping “Yeah!” at the end of his daughter’s routine.

I love it because I’ve been there.

Not raising an Olympian, of course, but cheering any number of loved ones as they perform or compete.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on bleachers in sweaty high-school gymnasiums, watching my big brother wrestle. I’d rock back and forth in my seat, half-covering my eyes with my hands, peeking through fingers and cheering, “Get up!” or “Take him down!”

Later, my interest turned to college football and basketball, and I’d pace the floor begging for that game-winning shot.

These days, I watch my children swim, dance, dribble the soccer ball or play violin, and I perform my own version of the Raisman Rock. Call it the Tobias Twist.

My husband laughs at my intensity but doesn’t judge. He knows that same laser-eyed focus enables me to snag balcony tables at crowded restaurants.

A recent commercial campaign by Olympic sponsor Procter & Gamble highlights the trials and joys of raising an Olympian and, according to marketing analysts, has garnered about 25 million page views.

Most, no doubt, from moms like me.

The “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign shows mothers across the globe helping their little ones realize their dreams — waking them up in the dark, feeding them breakfast, driving them to practice, washing their sweaty clothes, guiding them along the balance beam or watching them play volleyball with friends.

A collection of short videos — search “Raising an Olympian” on YouTube — features interviews with the mothers of famous Olympians, including swimmer Lochte and gymnast Shawn Johnson. At the end, the commercial declares: “The hardest job in the world … is the best job in the world.”

Cue the tears.

The campaign is emotional — seriously, don’t watch them if you’re feeling hormonal — and effective. The clincher is always that shot of an athlete waving to his mother or blowing her a kiss, flowers in hand and medal around neck.

It’s relevant not because every parent knows what it’s like to raise an Olympian — or even wants to.

It’s because we know what it’s like to wince and rock and chant and cheer and look ridiculous in those bleachers.

And we do it proudly.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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