Tuesday, January 22, 2013

the lesson of Lance Armstrong: a post for parents


Does anyone else feel saddened by the Lance Armstrong story?

After watching both of Oprah’s interviews with Lance Armstrong I agree he’s not a likable guy. I watched him squirm and offer surprisingly vacant insights into himself, I heard him admit he was a bully to anyone who threatened the life he had built on a shifting sand of lies. And I realized why terms like pathological liar, narcissist, and even sociopath are being thrown around in discussions all over the internet and cable news.

But I’m not a Lance basher.

Maybe it was my years as a psychotherapist that left me permanently altered. That helped me understand the complicated layers that make up a whole person. And left me feeling compassion for those who unconsciously create their own hell here on earth.


Or possibly it was my work in the eating disorder field that made me wary of people trying to pass off a perfect looking story for their real life. Because working daily with beautiful, thin women who hated their bodies taught me that behind every beloved hero, every glamorous celebrity, and every glossy photo shoot there’s only a mere human there. With flaws in their personality and pain in their story, just like you and me.

Whatever the reasons, I know that nothing is ever what it seems from the outside.


But still, hearing Lance Armstrong acknowledge that he cheated his way through seven Tour de France wins made my mouth drop open. And listening to his admission that he was a bully to anyone daring to tell the truth, was a sobering moment. But one that left me with a strange sense of relief.

I actually thought, thank you Lance. Thanks for reminding parents to be careful what dreams and wishes we have for our children. Thanks for the reality check.

Because Lance Armstrong is an glorious example that racking up achievements, and wealth and world-wide fame do not guarantee one’s inner peace or happiness or a well-lived life.

I’m sure you already know this. But when it comes to raising our own kids this means something; it means we need to be careful about over-focusing on our child’s achievements. At the risk of neglecting the heart and soul stuff.

And for all those sports-driven parents out there, Lance is a wonderful reminder that developing into an elite athlete and developing a moral compass and character are not the same.

And while we may know our child’s baseball stats or mile time, we should definitely know the statistics on the important effects of family dinners  on addiction and relationships. Because this is the stuff that has lasting value.

Lance Armstrong reminded me once again that it’s much more important to raise a great kid,

than a kid who is great at something.

And that teaching morality and empathy for others, is key to raising a kid who tells the truth, even in the toughest situations.

Because qualities like integrity, curiosity, grit, perseverance, work ethic, and gratitude have been linked to a fulfilling, successful life. And THIS important book about character and success is something we all should know about.


There are lots of thoughts I have about Lance Armstrong. And his win-at-all-costs lifestyle.

Mostly I felt bad about those deeper voids inside him, and his admission that he’s never talked to his mother, about the biological father who abandoned him. That’s some powerful avoidance.

But when the dust settles, I’m left with this truth.


Lance Armstrong showed the world you can be the best athlete in your sport, but if you don’t have the admiration of your child, if every word you utter is doubted, if you’re branded a cheater and scorned by the world for being a bully

…it doesn’t much matter.

Tell me what you think.




linking up here:

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Lady Goo Goo Gaga said...

Awesome awesome post!!
Love the quotes...and i especially love when u say its more important to raise a kid thats good than raise a kid thats good at something...perfection

Pitter and Glink said...

Wow! Great post!

Gypsy Heart said...

Beautifully stated,Leslie! I think it's so important to teach kids about the "good stuff" ~ honesty, integrity, love, diversity, respect, accountability and the fact that no one is perfect...and it's ok.

It's sad about Lance Armstrong ~ such a disappointment. IMHO, I don't feel that he's really sorry...just sorry he got caught. Oh well, that's his business.


Gia said...

Yeah...the cheating didn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that he was a *$&%Y#*($&Ybag to anyone who called him out for it.

Linda Roy said...

You are spot on! This was very thought provoking and insightful. In this day and age of pushing our kids to achieve almost at all costs, it's important to remember what really matters and that those things come from within and from a place of dignity, respect and integrity. Bravo on an excellent post! The quotes you chose are also wonderful. Love the Oscar Wilde line.

Jared Karol said...

I think you speak for all parents w/ this post. Sometimes the right things to do are so obvious, but we all need reminders here and there to keep us on track w/ our kids. Thanks for helping in that direction.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you said, but I don't think it's true in general. Sports around the world allow for "naughty" behavior. Athletes (and the rich & famous all around) are allowed to sexually and physically abuse other people, animals, the system, and they are still revered. It's certainly not limited to our time or hemisphere. Which makes it even more sad in the long-view. It's not going away.

AntiqueChase said...

I think this:

Lance Armstrong reminded me once again that it’s much more important to raise a great kid,

than a kid who is great at something.

And that teaching morality and empathy for others, is key to raising a kid who tells the truth, even in the toughest situations.

is the best sentiment :) bravo

Anonymous said...

Leslie, you have no idea how much I love this post. I was thinking about parenting all through the interviews too. I share you thoughts and opinions on this. I can't articulate it here, because I have been up for 18 hours, but the bullying and the win at all costs....some costs are too high. I hope my kids know that. I hope I do.

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Great post, Leslie. Our society tends to put professional athletes on a pedestal and this makes them feel they do not have to obey the rules. xx, Sherry

Christine Organ said...

Yes to all of this! Fabulous, really.

The (not so) Special Mother said...

This is an outstanding post! I agree with you, although I have never been a big Lance Armstrong fan, and have never found him very likeable. I guess in a sense, I wasn't really surprised at all.

Anonymous said...

I SOOO agree with everything you wrote. We need to check ourselves as parents. I think I was sometimes guilty in the early years of parenting. I placed a lot of importance on academic achievement, etc. and I guess I still do, but in the later years of parenting, I started hearing myself tell my sons that all I really want is for them to be happy... and it's true. I want them to live their own truths and follow their hearts. And I agree with you about family mealtimes too.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to a short little article I wrote a couple of years ago. It's about family mealtime.

Thanks for this blog post.


Ken said...

That's quite a bit to think about.

Our oldest son has natural athletic ability. He excelled at all things sports related and we supported him in what he chose to do, because that's what you're supposed to do. Yet he wasn't good enough to make a career of playing sports and when he entered the "real world" he struggles now because nothing is as easy as that was for him. Sometimes I feel like we let him down by not giving him the proper tools? I don't know. Sports are a good thing , but they're not everything. I hope I've done a better job with his 2 younger brothers.

Daniela @Frugal Aint Cheap said...

Absolutely! Agree on everything! Very sad that he never talked about his biological father...that is not normal. As painful as it might be, he needs some healing and closure about that.

Samantha Brinn Merel said...

This is a great post. I wasn't bothered so much by the cheating, but I hated that he ruined anyone who had the audacity to question his wins.

Kristi said...

I totally agree with you. I have not read or watched anything about it, but have been getting all the information from my husband who has been reading about it. Totally disappointing and your right, he's just not "likeable". It was nice to see he was human when he admitted it to his 13 yr old son.
I totally agree with your take on raising kids. I have one son who does not learn like everyone else does. He's very intelligent though. And I have attended meeting after school meeting and said those same words. I am more interested in raising a child who is happy, loved and a great person. I'm not interested in standardized test scores. I'm sure you can imagine how this went over in the academic world. He is homeschooled now, happy, excited and TRULY learning. Sometimes you have to go on the road less traveled.

IASoupMama said...

I have no illusions that my kids are going to be elite anythings. We're raising them to enjoy playing on a team, to cheer for themselves AND their friends AND their competition, and to try their best. I can't ask for more than that, can I?

And bullying people who try to be honest? For shame...

Loved this post!

Lori said...

So well said Leslie. I too watched the interview and although I am not a Lance basher can see how some were so passionate in bashing him. He is a bully and a liar and a cheat but he also has to live with himself for the rest of his life. He did beat cancer and because of it started Livestrong ~ I have not worn my yellow bracelet in years but hope that in hindsight all the money donated to the foundation went to the right place. He has done some things right in his life ~ too bad he tipped the scales so far in the "wrongs" he will never be able to get it right again.

Jamie Miles said...

You are so right. Something very deep in a person creates that drive to win at all costs. You so eloquently stated -- what/who are we emulating these days? And why? "it’s much more important to raise a great kid,

than a kid who is great at something." What an important truth.

Rogue Wino said...

I don't know how he could be comfortable with himself through this whole charade. That pic of him sitting, alone, with all the wall plaques was perfect, so empty. What does he do with those now? Was it worth it dude?

Jack Steiner said...

I want my good kids to grow up to become good people. Some prices are far too high and not worth paying, Lance is going to figure that out sooner or later.

Natalie DeYoung said...

So, SO true! I cannot TELL you the issues I've gone through because my parents valued my performance above all else. I came to see myself only as what I could achieve. A life-threatening addiction and many wasted years later, I believe I'm on the other side, but oh, to have those years and that piece of my heart back...
Fantastic post!

Michelle Longo said...

I really don't know much about he LA situation. Somehow I've avoided the whole thing. But I echo your sentiment that I'd rather my kid be average at everything he tries and be a great guy than be a super successful jerk.

Unknown said...

I haven't really followed the Lance Armstrong controversy partly because well, Oprah just doesn't float my boat. But, what you've done here is humanized him. He isn't just an athlete, and he isn't just an athlete who cheated. He's a human who made some bad choices and maybe has some bad characteristics but everybody is more than their worst just as they are more than their best.


I wasn't really shocked or saddened by his admission or that he was a cheater. Sadly, I kinda expect this out of athletes, those in the spotlight, those the world puts on a pedestal. I don't think they all go to the lengths he did to win, and I'm sure not all of them are cheaters or lacking in integrity, but I think most of them have secrets or do things that would shock or disappoint their fans. You are right, they have flaws just like the rest of us. Theirs are just broadcast on a much bigger stage.

Unknown said...

oh leslie i love this post. i am not a lance basher either. i didn't watch the interviews and i heard they did not help him in any way. i assume that would have been his only personal reason for doing them.

the pressure athletes have to perform better than the guy/girl next to them and that they are easily replaceable based on that moments performance is so great. i think it is hard for us to imagine that side of it. we all make decisions that carve our path and can either make us or break us. im sad lance chose to break himself, lie and hurt others along the way.
he taught us all a valuable lesson that's for sure.

Unknown said...

This is a well done post and I agree with everything you said about raising kids. But Lance had several opportunities to come clean over YEARS and this is way too little too late. Back in the day, everyone doped. He should have admitted it a long time ago. I believe if he had, he could have come back into the sport. Now, he's a serial liar and a bully, and one that doesn't even really seem sorry. Maybe I don't have enough compassion but I don't feel sorry for him at all after the way he's treated people

Dilovely said...

What a wise post. Ain't humans tough nuts sometimes? In the words of Amanda Marshall, "Everybody's got a story that could break your heart." And I couldn't agree more about raising good kids. I'm pinning that oscar wilde quote - SO GOOD.

Pam Kessler said...

Fabulous post. I can't add anything more to it, but just wanted to tell you that I love your writing style. You make me think and that's a good thing!

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

So true. Kids take all the fall out. I also saw him squirming and felt shame and pity. What a graceless withdrawal.

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