Michael Phelps proved that children of divorced parents can achieve swimmingly.
With his record 8 gold medals for the Beijing Olympics, the 23-year-old Phelps is considered the greatest Olympian in world history.
The tribute goes to his mom Debbie, a school administrator, who diligently drove him and his two sisters, Whitney and Hilary, to swim in their hometown of Baltimore. As a single mom, she also helped him through his ADD and proved to be a loving, supportive parent — and a smart one too.
Since Michael’s father Fred, a retired state trooper, was an invisible presence in their lives after the 1994 divorce, Debbie realized that swimming was a great release for her young son.
When he was 11, Michael Phelps bonded with swimming coach Bob Bowman, who became a surrogate father figure to the young boy. This often happens when a father figure is absent. A smart mother often tries to find another male figure, either in a relative such as an uncle, or perhaps a coach.
Only 9.2 percent of households are run solely by single moms and the challenges often result in higher high school drop-out rates and behavioral problems. However, with the right parenting, focus, and outlets, children are less impacted and can learn other lessons from the experience.
When asked about his father in interviews, Phelps has said that they occasionally “email” but shrugs his big shoulders when asked how it impacted him. He always refers to the love his mother Debbie gave him and his sisters.
But a philosophy of coping did emerge from this experience. Although a fierce competitor, Phelps is known to take the rare defeats in stride or even the pressure of constant competing. His famous saying is, “Whatever happens, happens.”
It is no surprise that a boy who didn’t have a father throwing baseballs, going to swim meets, or playing lacrosse with him had to find ways to make sense of this disappointment.
Experts say that as long as a child gets reliable and consistent love from one parent, their value system and opportunity for happiness is as strong as Phelps’ breaststroke.
And a deep loyalty is also built.
Who was the person Phelps wanted to see after his victory? His mom Debbie. “The first thing I’d like to do to my mom is just hug her,” said Phelps.