momlogic: Michael has publicly applauded you for being an amazingly supportive mom. As a single working mom of three, how did you juggle it all on your own--and stay sane?
Debbie Phelps: Sometimes I wish I had another parent to help me, but my own mother instilled lots of confidence in me to be a good parent. If I ever do find another partner, he would have to be a gift from God. For my own part, I just try to avoid the whole "stage mom" scene. When Michael was little, I decided to expose him to everything so he could decide what he liked. He played baseball, lacrosse, and swimming, and his coach always said, "You're hot now, but it may be gone tomorrow." We try to remember that to keep us sane.
ML: We've heard Michael was bullied as a kid. How can you manage teasing from mean kids as a mom?
DP: I can't stand it when kids are mean. Since Michael was little, kids have made fun of his ears. The teasing upset him, but he took it in stride and never retaliated. His dad would always say, "Hit the kid back!" but I always said, "What will hitting accomplish? What can you do in place of violence?" I also taught him that some kids only know how to bully and torment because that's how they were raised.
ML: How does Michael stay grounded as he navigates his fame?
DP: I've watched him mature a lot from 2004 to now, and I can only hope he carries with him all the values I've tried to instill. When he was in high school, he had a strict curfew and was always the designated driver. That said, he still has fun, he just tries to stick to a schedule. There will be many challenges, of course, but we'll deal as they come. I never thought my son would be an Olympic athlete, so we try to adjust to his fame every day.
ML: Do you worry people want to befriend Michael because he's famous?
DP: Yes, he has too many friends on Facebook--who are all these people? I always say, "Know who your real friends are--did they like you before you won gold medals?" But Michael is very grounded. A childhood bully once approached Michael to congratulate him on a race and was surprised Michael didn't remember him. When the guy walked away, I said, "Michael, you knew exactly who that was!" and he answered, "Mom, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of remembering his name." He understands some people just want a piece of him. I get treated differently too now. I read quotes in magazines from people who claim to be my friend, but I've never met them in my life. It's kind of scary.
ML: We've all read about Michael's intense pre-game diet. Can you share any recipes for making Michael dinner?
DP: Oh no, I really hate to cook--it's just not my forte. When the kids were little, I made lots of pasta and fed them red meat and lots of carbs. But Michael takes care of his own meals. He is eating from morning to night, constantly grazing on something.
ML: Is it strange to see your son being heralded as a sex symbol?
DP: Michael's sisters and I laugh at the notion. He does have a mature, well-built body and works hard to maintain it. His love life is his own business ... but, once and for all, he is not dating Amanda Beard!
Johnson's Baby is honoring Debbie as official "Mom of the Olympics" and donating money to global children's charities of Debbie's choice in her name. It's an extension of their "Thanks, Mom" campaign found at www.baby.com/thanksmom.