3 reasons why Aly Raisman’s parents deserve a gold medal

I stayed away from spoiler outlets yesterday so I could actually watch gymnastics without knowing what happened. But everything is a spoiler outlet so  it is almost impossible not to know Olympic results before they air on NBC. Holding your ears while humming doesn’t work as well as it used to. Somehow when I turned on gymnastics last night, I still didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a modern day miracle.

What I didn’t know was that my favorite part would be watching Aly Raisman’s parents watch Aly Raisman perform on the uneven bars. If you missed it, this might be the best Olympic performance of the day.

(If you can’t see the video, I want to invite you to click over and watch. It’s less than a minute and oh-so-worth it)

There are so many things to say about this. It’s awkward and awesome, like a strange picture we can’t stop staring at but wish we could. I’ve watched it five times already trying to figure out why I love it so much. I’ve come up with 3 reasons so far:

They had a physical reaction to being present. These two were so grounded in this moment, so unbelievably present during that 53 seconds that their bodies physically reacted to it. We aren’t used to seeing that.

They were completely unaware of who was watching. They didn’t take their eyes off their girl. They were surrounded by people, cameras and also the world and they didn’t for a moment wave, fix their hair, or monitor their weird movements. They lived fully and out loud. Engaged. Present. Raw. We aren’t used to seeing that, either.

In less than a minute, they give us a perfect image of how insane it sometimes feels to be a parent. Our kids are other-than us, no matter what we do. We can cheer and support and pay for their passions, but they have to pull them off. They have to live their lives, write their stories, win their medals. Our job is to put on supportive t-shirts, pray without ceasing, and stay present along the way.

 Did you see this last night? Do you love it as much as I do?


  1. says

    My hubs and I were watching it yesterday. And we had to rewind it over and over again because we found it absolutely hilarious! It was the best thing about Olympics I have ever seen. It almost seemed unreal, like i was watching SNL. Lol. And I bet you anything it’s going viral! I sure hope so! Those parents rock!

  2. says

    Oh my gosh… I did NOT see this last night. Thanks for sharing it. It’s hysterical! I love the THREE points you brought out. You are right on! I love that they were there for their girl! =D

  3. says

    It’s as if they were trying to “help” her along, like maybe they could tilt the whole planet a certain way, on her behalf, if they leaned hard enough one way — sort of like you do in a Tilt-a-Whirl. :) Loved this, Emily.

  4. says

    I watched them too and felt tense just observing them. The look on his face at the end is priceless. I love what you wrote that “In less than a minute, they give us a perfect image of how insane it sometimes feels to be a parent.” That is so right. Great illustration!

  5. JennyBC says

    I LOVE IT! Goodness gracious! I have watched many a sporting event, play, piano recital, etc. I totally got where they were. So Sweet!

  6. Melissa says

    I thought it was wonderful. So great to see how tuned in they were to their daughter’s every move. My mother was in the room watching with me and she said that the woman looked like a witch and she would never want her as a mother… Not sure how she came to that viewpoint…

  7. says

    I did see it and loved it, too. I also thought it was interesting how at times, as a couple they had the exact some reaction. I wish every kid had two parents that were lovingly supporting their dreams.


  8. Tee says

    My 16 year old son was watching and had me come up to see this. I find Mr. Raisman adorable, but mom seems like the poster child for overbearing sports mothers living vicariously through their children. Your kids probably aren’t quite old enough yet for the culture of youth competitive sports but it gets pretty ugly out there due in large part to people like Mrs. Raisman seems to be in this video. Then again, it’s the Olympics and they’ve sacrificed a lot more for their child’s success than most of us have, so what do I know?

    • Tina says

      Tee~ After watching it on t.v. last night I found out that Aly’s mom was also a gymnast when she was younger. I think she was just literally “going through the motions” with her daughter…just from her seat. :)

  9. Karen says

    Loved that they showed that. Those two are my kind of people and as a parent you couldn’t help but relate and even feel the anxiety they were experiencing. I love the olympics for so many reasons, but witnessing the devotion, encouragement and sacrifices of the families is one of my favorites. You nailed it right on the head today Emily, thanks for your post:)

  10. says

    I loved this, because I am the exact crazy way when I watch my kids. It is such an out of control feeling. You want them to succeed with every part of your being. Thanks for sharing the clip.

  11. says

    So much fun. I can see why you are so enthralled with this. But it is hard to put into words, more of a feeling. Leaning into, drawing back, pulling with, focused, intense…their hours and days and years summed up in this little clip. Love your third point, our children have to live their lives, tell their own stories, win their medals (or not) while we lean with and draw back, pull in, and focus, fascinated to watch them live and tell and win or lose. It is all about love, isn’t it? The art of living in someone else’s shoes, desiring to give our all to them, for them. The crazy art of parenting.

  12. says

    I saw it and I felt it. The thing that struck me was you could tell by their movements…they FELT everything she felt. They knew her every move. They wanted her to get it right…every single bit of it. I couldn’t help but think how Jesus…….feels what we feel. He WANTS us to get it right. He knows our every move…and He wants it for us…even more than we want it.

  13. says

    Yes! We saw that last night and felt just the same way – as parents, my husband and I could identify with them so much! It was almost painful to watch, but we could sympathize with them completely. What a great example of parenthood in action. Glad you highlighted it here.

  14. says

    I did see this last night, and I had multiple reactions to it. At first I felt awkward, like I was intruding on something intensely personal. Their emotion and intensity made me sort of uncomfortable. Then I watched it again, and those initial feelings faded, and I thought about the whole “insanity of parenting” thing you talked about, and how crazy it must be to have your baby competing in front of the world, and you can’t hold their hand, you just have to watch and hope and pray for their best. Then, watching it just now, I cried. I don’t see a mom and dad who pushed their kid. I see parents who are super supportive, fiercely loyal, and crazy proud of their daughter. Really love what you had to say about this. :)

  15. says

    Yes! We were just dying as we watched them watching her. I really can’t imagine what it would be like as parent to watch your child on the world’s stage under all of that pressure. The relief that spilled over after the uneven bars and then after the all-around results was so palpable, I exhaled deeply for them.

  16. says

    You know what else is really cute? I believe the kids sitting directly next to them are their other kids and you can see how bad they want their sister to do well too. They’re just a little better at stifling it. 😉 Super cute video! I loved watching it last night too.

  17. says

    I did see it and loved it, too. I think I loved it so much because I do that same thing while watching my children compete. I kick at a soccer ball and sink down in my seat, I bob my head while watching swimming and I used to hold myself erect in my seat while watching ballet and gymnastics. I cannot NOT do it. I’m just so glad no one has filmed me doing any of it. 😉

  18. says

    It was amazing. I told my husband that I would be the exact same way. You could tell they wished they could jump in and do it for her or at least help her through it even though they knew they couldn’t.

  19. says

    Oh my gosh it was so awesome and totally relatable! If there was ever a synchronized parent watching their kid perform competition these two would win by a landslide :) Hubs and I just sat there and smiled the entire time watching them. Loved every minute of it!!

  20. says

    Oh yes…just loved it…I thought this was a perfect picture of a parent’s heart…and how we can’t go out and live life for them…but we can cheer them on with everything we have. blessings~

  21. Janet Cull says

    I so felt Mom’s gut! and I love Dad’s reaction at the end. He held it together so well throughout, but just had to let it out… beautifully! Wonderfully ! I love it. I love them!

  22. says

    I didn’t get to see that exact clip, but watching their reaction when they found out Aly made All Around Finals was so moving! Truly a testament to this life we call parenting. :)

  23. says

    As a former gymnast and coach, I absolutely love this. My husband actually said “what are they doing?” and I said “Those are some good gymnastics parents.” I know my mom went through every routine with me as she watched me compete and I did the same for my athletes when I was coaching. They are FULLY invested in her performance and they can’t breathe until she is finished. Love it!

  24. says

    I hadn’t seen that clip. I did see their expressions after she had learned she was in the top two and would be able to compete in the all-around competition. She was crying tears of relief and joy and they were letting out all the stress and emotion and joy as well. Release, great release. We could all feel it with them, us parents. Your observations are dead on!

  25. says

    YES! I so saw that last night and was also amazed at how “into” it her parents were. I almost teared up. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like as a parent to be sitting there watching your child’s dream of potentially becoming a an Olympic gold medalist play out before you. What you said is so true, “We can cheer and support and pay for their passions, but they have to pull them off. They have to live their lives, write their stories, win their medals. Our job is to put on supportive t-shirts, pray without ceasing, and stay present along the way.” Beautiful!!

  26. says

    I missed it, but saw the video later. Wow. There are two parents who were fully in the moment with their daughter. Good for them that watching their daughter was more important than performing for the world that was watching them!

  27. Tina says

    we watched this with our kids (8 and 7) and they couldn’t understand why we were laughing. i’m not even sure mike and i understood why we loved it so much!! thanks for sharing so i can watch it again. love the way her dad is “waiting to exhale” until the end. awesome.

  28. DeAnna says

    Having 3 boys all who play sports, with the main sport being football, my husband and I could totally relate to this!! I absolutely LOVED seeing these parents in action. I think people forget how invested we as parents are in our children’s talents/sports and to see something so real like that was a breath of fresh air. We all have wished, willed, yelled, cheered and rooted for our kids but to see it caught on film was stinkin’ cool to observe! Along with the physical aspect of them trying to move their body like their little girl was doing was awesome. It is so good to see parents in a positive light and cheering for their extremely talented kids!

  29. @KristenWatson says

    I loved watching this last night and I love your review even more. So well said! Love your blog.

  30. Laura says

    Watched it and loved it. My now 21 yr old was once a gymnast and watching them made me relive every competition moment I watched. Their motions are exactly how we feel. Loved. it.

  31. Tina says

    I watched it too and thought it was fabulous. Aly’s mom was a gymnast and you could almost see her going through each of the moves in her seat as Aly did on the bars.

  32. says

    We also had managed to stay away from all the ‘spoiler-alerts’ yesterday, and were also won over by Aly’s parents. Of course, their daughter is something pretty amazing, but I could myself in her mother’s shoes. I said out loud “That’s probably how I’d be acting, right there!” and my 19 year old son says, “That IS how you act Mom. And it’s a good thing.”
    We are our children’s cheerleaders, are we not? As well as coaches, mentors, etc.

  33. says

    That’s got to be one of the sweetest things I’ve seen in a long time… GO mom and dad! :)
    Wow. Thanks for sharing that, I’d have totally missed it.

  34. says

    This made me cry! Incredible, yes! I saw their reaction when she got her scores for the floor exercise and her mom was shaking she was so happy… I don’t even know if happy describes it. I am still crying actually as I type this, because I can feel their pride and love for their daughter!

  35. says

    My husband and I watched last night and thought it was fabulous! All they cared about was their girl…can’t wait to see them watch her again!

  36. says

    I have to admit I saw them and thought they were crazy. And then I thought that is why my child is not going to make it to the Olympics because I refuse to become a crazy stage/gymnastic mom. I guess I see your view as a little glass half full…

    • says

      I tend to fill up my little glasses half full in lots of areas. And to your point, I’m pretty sure my kids will never make it to the Olympics either!

  37. jjcole says

    I get what you’re saying, and there’s definitely something neat about seeing parents that dedicated and in-tune, but it did make me think of how incredibly hard many parents of athletes push their kids and where the line is between spurring them to do their best and putting too much pressure on them. Aly’s parents may not be ones that put too much pressure on her, but I didn’t love when it looked like the mom dropped the f-bomb on one of the clips I saw (though I think it appeared to be out of relief, not anger or disappointment). I’m also not sure if I would think it was best to be so wrapped up in every detail of my child’s performance. It’s great that they have so much empathy and know her life so well. I’m probably just not cut out to be an Olympic parent. I think the athletes are amazing, but I can’t relate to the competitive drive it requires, and there are too many other things I think are important that I’d be hesitant to want my child to put on the back burner in order to dedicate the amount of time it takes to compete at that level. So, I’m not disagreeing, it just makes me think about the family lives of the athletes and the pros and cons of dedicating your life to a sport.

    • says

      yeahhh. I definitely see your point for sure. I still think the illustration works, how it can sometimes feel to be a parent (not just an Olympic parent) – watching our kids do anything. And this being a super extreme example is what makes it poignant. I certainly wasn’t trying to say they are an example of how to be parents.

  38. says

    Thanks, Emily, for sharing this video, and this post. It is so rare, as you pointed out, for people to be that aware and present for another person. Oh, for grace, to be the kind of parents that prays and stays fully present in a supportive role.

  39. says

    Kev and I were laughing hysterically the whole time we watched this last night….and we found ourselves doing the same thing they were doing while watching them! It was contagious, and awesome, all tangled up in a big ball together. And every parent watching understood it.

  40. says

    love it.

    how often i’ve probably reacted that exact same way when my kids were doing something –
    if not so animated outwardly, well, certainly my heart was leaping and leaning with them…

    i get this.
    thanks for pulling out the little details others miss, emily.

  41. says

    Yes and yes!!!! The parents’ performance was almost par with the gymnasts’ – certainly more expressive and entertaining. Love the last spurt of their contrasting emotions: mom collapses and dad exults. Thanks for highlighting a great study in parenting.

  42. says

    I saw that, too! What amazes me is that the cameras knew where they were. I also noticed that no one around them seemed bothered by their mutterings… like it happens all the time. 😀

  43. says

    This really is a great example of being in the moment with your kids. We aren’t used to seeing that kind of raw-ness, that’s why it does look so awkward-you are so right. “In less than a minute, they give us a perfect image of how insane it sometimes feels to be a parent.” Totally agree.

  44. 17 Perth says

    Yes!! I loved this moment—and both laughed and teared up watching it. Truly a raw and special moment as they watch their “little girl” achieve her dreams. I cannot even imagine!

  45. says

    I have only seen a bit of the sychronized diving because we don’t have cable (or any channels) but this was great. Thanks for sharing your reflections on this. I had to laugh at the dad’s last reaction before the camera cut, because of his stress and he was finally able to release it with his “aaaghh!” It reminded me of a ‘breathing period’ after a really long, uncomfortable phase we, as parents, don’t really know how to deal with. It just happens that one day, it’s over, there’s another calm, and then another phase! :)
    I think your reflections are so true. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as always.
    Sarah M

  46. says

    I’ve just watched the father of Chad le Clos be interviewed on the BBC about two minutes after his son had been presented with a gold medal in the swimming. I hope it’ll be up on a website to watch at some point because he was just over the moon. His son had been in tears as it was and his father was just bouncing off the walls! He was being interviewed but just kept interrupting the interviewer and himself because he’d see his son on a monitor or behind him or something and he’d just have to point out how amazing, beautiful, wonderful …

    I think there’s something so moving about fathers getting emotional in particular, because it doesn’t tend to happen. Men will be men, that sort of thing. But Bert le Clos wanted to raise the roof making sure everyone took notice of his son.

  47. says

    I am with you. I cried when I first saw it. . and wondered why. What was it touching in me. And then I cried when I saw it again here on your blog. I want to “live fully, out loud, engaged, present and raw”. .for me and for my kids. I want my kids to have the freedom to live that way too. That is why I cried.

  48. says

    I loved her parent’s reaction…the video doesn’t seem to be working, but here is another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_Hw5dWgfOM

    The parents are really one of my favorite parts of the Olympics. Interestingly, last night I saw a differnt comparison – when the South African swimmer beat Michael Phelps (giving him a silver instead of gold) there was sheer joy on the South African dad’s face, he was so overwhelmed that he was crying and hiding behind his country’s flag. And the Phelps family looked disappointed, what a sharp contrast to other athletes and their parents who are thrilled to even make the medal podium.

    However, I don’t want this comment to be in any way critical of the Phelps family, just an observation of the incredible contrast of emotions when you expressing your natural reaction so openly.

  49. says

    You know why else they deserve a gold metal? Because of how their daughter acted when she found out she was going to the all-arounds. She beat her friend and world champion out of the spot. Jordyn was bawling (I would have been, too) and Ali kept her celebrations in check. It’s so, so good to see a young person react this way instead of being so “in your face.” Kudos to raising her right!

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