If you’ve stood on a sideline, with a piece of you running around on the field /stepping up to the plate/ balancing on a bar / sliding on the ice, you get it.

You get the nervousness, the hope, the anticipation, the eventual release of emotion – positive or negative – when it’s all over.

I didn’t get it for the longest time, but this quadrennial I’m getting all the feels. Parents have a special appreciation and empathy for what happens during the Olympics.

I have loved watching the Olympics my entire life, and while I could catch a nationalistic wave to cheer on Team Canada when I was in my 20s, I never appreciated what it was like to be an elite athlete.  I couldn’t empathize with the stress and devotion it took to be world class. I cheered for Canada, but I didn’t ‘understand’.

But now, now that I have kids, I am fully empathetic with the … parents. I’ve sat on the sidelines and urged my kids to run faster, score a goal, keep their balance. I’ve celebrated victories, I’ve consoled defeats. I’ve wished and willed it could be me on the field of play taking all the stress away.

Everything the parents of Emily Overholdt share here about their daughter on the world’s biggest sports stage also describes my feeling watching a Saturday morning soccer game

The stakes may be higher, but the emotion is a constant among all parents. I’m sure if I got to sit in the hallway and watch my son take a spelling test, I’d bob and weave and wish as hard as Lynn and Rick Raisman do watching their gold medal winning gymnast daughter, Aly.

You don’t need to see Aly perform her routine to fully and completely appreciate all the emotions the parents are living in a minute.

Sometimes parents can’t even watch.

I love watching the finals of events, sure, but the recap after, with a split screen of the Olympic parents in the crowd, is even better. Because that’s when I get to truly understand what the Olympics are all about.

There’s Penny Oleksiak’s mother and sister watching her anchor Canada to a bronze ..

.. and then Alison and Richard Oleksiak reliving it all the next night when Penny won her second medal of the games. And all the parents together cheering on the relay.

I can even appreciate the elation of grandparents.

When it’s all over, when the result known, the final release of getting to share the moment with your kids. With the stress of competition finally over, you get to just … hug.

There’s the Mainvilles getting to surprise their daughter, Sandrine, after she won a bronze.

There’s Jen Kish climbing into the stands to embrace her dad, Rick, after a landmark bronze in rugby.

And sometimes we have to be there to pick up the pieces, as the parents of Jen Abel and Pamela Ware understand when their daughters slipped off the podium and finished fourth.

I’m not the dad of an Olympian, but I’m the dad of two dancing, soccer playing, swimming, mountain biking boys .. and I get it.

Want to wave the flag for Team Canada‘s athletes and parents? You can grab your official Team Canada Olympic Gear by Adidas at Sport Chek.

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Disclosure: Sport Chek is a brand partner of DadCAMP

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