Michael Phelps poses with his gold medal from the 200-meter… (AFP/Getty Images )
As the 2012 Olympics in London approach, I'm finding myself feeling strangely nostalgic.
Four years ago, my son Isaac was only a few weeks old, and we were still navigating the waters of the basics like sleeping and nursing and the difference between daytime and nighttime. In the midst of that, my husband had to leave for two weeks of annual training for the Marine Corps Reserves. I didn't know what time it was for days, and I found myself awake at all hours, cuddling my boy and trying to get him to go -- or, really, to stay -- asleep.
But during that time, no matter what hour of the day it was, I could flip on the TV and catch up on the Olympics. Gymnastics. Synchronized diving. Track and field. I think I caught a little of almost everything. But no story gripped me, especially as a Marylander, like that of Michael Phelps and his quest for record-breaking gold. For the first time, though, I found myself thinking not only about the athlete and what an experience it must have been for him; my attention turned toward his mother, Debbie Phelps. Cradling my own baby boy and watching her watch her own son go on this awe-inspiring journey at breakneck speed, I felt her every emotion -- her nerves, her fear, her elation, her shock, all of it.Cheesy? Maybe. I'm sure it was all amplified by my post-partum hormonal changes -- and the most significant change in my own life to that point. But I just kept thinking to myself, "Not that long ago, she was holding her brand-new tiny baby boy, and now she's watching him make history." I cried. Kind of a lot. But it was one of the first times I felt like a mom, a real one, able to separate myself from the relentlessness of newborn care for just a moment and realize that many potential stages and paths of motherhood possibly awaited me. I'm not saying I'm expecting to see Isaac on the Olympic podium or anything -- unless it's something he wants to do. (Heck, I'll be thrilled if he gets for comfortable with swimming on our coming vacation just for the sake of safety and the pure fun of it.) This summer, with my baby son a much more sound sleeper than his brother was four years ago and me back at work, I won't be watching as much middle-of-the-night coverage.But I will be showing Isaac at least a little bit of the London Games, and most definitely some swimming. And while we're watching Michael Phelps swim for gold this time around, I'll be watching his mother, too, as she goes through the range of emotions all over again, and wondering how the tiny human I rocked and sang to through the '08 games is already starting to outgrow my lap.