The Richmond Register

August 5, 2012

4-H fair competition: Bringing the family together

By Scott Darst
Special to the Register

RICHMOND — RICHMOND — Like most Americans, I have caught the Olympic fever.  From the time I get home from work until late hours at night, at least one TV in my home stays on the Olympics. 

My whole family will gather and watch some of the events (trying to explain the opening ceremony was a little difficult, but we managed).

My wife and I have made up a rotation system with our three young children (ages 2, 4 and 6) so one of them gets to stay up a little later for some one-on-one time with Mommy and Daddy. Here recently we have stayed up with one of them watching whatever Olympic event.

We have even planned some of these nights out so my oldest daughter can watch some of the gymnastics with Mommy. My youngest daughter watched swimming, and my son got to see some USA basketball (with our own Anthony Davis changing the song, “London Bridge is browing down”).

My wife and I are just teaching our children about the games, about the USA athletes and also spending time with them.

If you have been watching the Olympics, you have probably seen the P&G commercials with the parents taking their children at young ages to sporting practices and then flashing forward to the same children and parents at the Olympics. It’s a very well done marketing campaign.

I can say that before I had children, it wouldn’t have fazed me one bit, but now it really gets me every time I see one of those commercials. I used to watch the Olympics thinking in my head that I want to be like them when I grow up.

Remember the “Dream Team?” I remember going out and playing basketball with my brothers and neighbors after watching their games trying to replicate what we just saw. Of course, we would lower our goal and try to replicate Michael Jordan’s dunks. However, time has gone by and I never quite became an Olympic athlete … shocking, I know.

Now as I watch the games I am looking at my children and their amazement and seeing them think to themselves, “I want to do that one day!”

Then, during some of the events they will show the parents in the crowd going through all the emotions of watching their own child compete for the United States.  Win or lose, the cameras always find their way to the parents.

Over the last couple of years, it has been fun watching Michael Phelps’s mother as she jumps up and down during the race and cry when he wins the gold.

This year we watched Jordyn Wieber’s mother, as her daughter failed to make the all-around final. (Jordyn is the USA women’s gymnast who was predicted to win it all).  It was a very surreal moment to watch Jordyn fight back tears and the camera kept showing her mother.  Afterwards, her mother twitted that all she wanted to do was go down and wrap her arms around her daughter. 

Though they are Olympic athletes some of them are still just kids, but all of them had someone who cared about them enough to sacrifice for their trainings, practices, and go through each and every competition with them.  That’s what we should do as parents.

Though the Madison County Fair is not the Olympics, I also witnessed the parent’s reaction to their children winning ribbons for their 4-H projects. It is such a sight to see the kids run in and try to find their projects after they have been judged and displayed, looking to see how well they did. It’s that moment when they see the purple (state-fair qualified) ribbon or even the blue ribbon.

One of the most touching scenes was watching one of our Cloverbuds, the 4-8 year olds who are not old enough to qualify for the state fair, run over to his projects and then watching his parents’ faces light up and joining in the excitement.

Once again, someone had to care enough about the child to make sure they were able to do certain projects and get them entered into the fair.

This was the first year one of my children was able to enter into the Cloverbud age group. We got to spend time together collecting insects for his entomology project.  That was such as cool experience, sharing my interest and passing on down my tips and knowledge about insects to him.

I wrote about how 4-H is family oriented just a couple of weeks ago, and it’s this time of year where the family’s hard work on projects get rewarded with some sort of ribbon.

You see, 4-H sometimes can be tricky. We want 4-H’ers to strive for that blue or purple ribbon, but most of all we want to bring families together in support of the 4-H’er who has entered a project in the fair.

My good friend Eric Comley, 4-H Extension Agent in Fayette County, brought up the subject of experiencing the “memorable experience” in one of my graduate class. That has stuck with me and my journey through parenthood. To me, parents can made a difference by giving their children “the memorable experience.” It is easy to get caught up in our busy schedules and the hustle of life and get away from truly building memorable experiences with our children.

I’m preaching to the choir now. I’m guilty of it too. I get home after a late meeting and all I want to do is sit on the couch and unwind from the day. But my children want me to get up and play Barbie’s (real men play Barbie’s with their daughters), play with super heroes or even read a book.

I have gotten better about it now. Sometimes when I get home, we will go out and chase fireflies, search for deer tracks in the yard, go hiking or color pictures. These are the types of things that can create memories.

The P&G commercials are just stunning because they give credit not just to the athlete but to the individual, whether they are a mom, dad, grandparent, foster parent or 4-H agent (sorry had too) for always being there and supporting that child.

Although 4-H is not the Olympics, we are sending the message that we want children to succeed, try their best, have a sense of belonging and be a good sport. This can be shown in our fair exhibits, the 4-H livestock shows, and even in our 4-H shooting sports programs.

So, here is to you individuals who care enough about the youth of America to spend time with them creating the memorable experience.