For me, one of the most challenging aspects of parenting is the good ol' "life lesson".Those moments where you wish more than anything you could intervene; saving your child from the pain that comes with a fall, the consequence that comes from a mistake, the fallout from a social faux pas or the disappointment that comes with a hope unfulfilled .
It takes everything in you to hold back, to guide rather than shelter and to recognize the importance of the bigger picture. There's a purpose for these moments and though they hurt (sometimes more so for us than for them) the lessons that come from them are invaluable and cannot be taught in a classroom.
When my son Peyton started karate he was the youngest in the class. Just shy of his fourth birthday, he swam in his white GI which we struggled to keep rolled and tucked. At first, learning the moves was a novelty, he was imperfect but oh-so-adorable. It didn't take much practice in the beginning to catch on to the "kata" and his serious face and determination won him a fan or two at the gradings (which are the tests that need to be passed in karate to earn stripes or belts and take place at the end of each session).
He would beam with pride when they would hand him the next stripe to be added to his white belt and took pleasure in hanging his certificate on the fridge for friends and family to see.
I don't remember when exactly, but one day we no longer needed to roll his pants and in a sea of white, he stood the tallest. He's earned his stripes and was now the senior student in his class, expected to lead, to set an example. Sensai no longer appreciated his goofy, good-natured comments in class and frowned upon his apparent lack of interest and growing love of socializing. Practice at home became something I avoided, knowing I would be met with resistance and bullheaded attempts to get out of it. It became obvious that karate just wasn't Peyton's "thing". So, to be honest, a couple of months ago, I wasn't shocked when Sensai emailed me to tell me that Peyton would not be receiving his yellow belt at the Presentation Ceremony that week. He went on to explain that this was quite normal, that for some, it can take two even three sessions before they're ready and replied that I understood and would prepare Peyton with the news.
Watching Peyton stand along side his peers that night as each and every one received they're stripes filled me with mixed emotions. My heart broke at the obvious disappointment he felt but swelled with pride as he stood there patiently and quietly while the others were presented with their stripes one at a time. It was everything I could manage not to grab him and leave, protecting him from the let down but robbing him of the lesson; that you get what you put into something.
When we talked about the fact that he hadn't earned his belt that session, we went over the reasons why. The fact was; he really hadn't tried his best and he knew it. I presented him with the question, "Do you think you want to take a break from karate?", he answered immediately, without hesitation, "No! I want my belt! If I quit, I'll be a white belt forever!"
We decided that the best thing to do, would be to go to class that night for the presentation, show our support for all the kids who had earned their stripes and plan to work really hard next session. If he tried his very best, he could walk away from karate knowing that he gave it his all and whether he earned his belt or not wouldn't matter (but would be an awesome reward if did!).
Countless hours were spent, practicing, critiquing and tweaking his kata or moves. I watched as he slowly transformed from the adorable four year old into the determined and focused soon-to-be six year old. While other children would play around at the beginning of class he would spend it warming up, practicing, looking over at me and giving me a "thumbs up" sign (our little sign during class to indicate how things were going).
The night of grading, Peyton had a look of determination with a pinch of nerves written on his face, the not so distant memory of the disappointment he felt last time still fresh in his mind. I held my breath and counted in my head, willing him to do the moves we had practiced over and over correctly. Sensai didn't hold back but we were ready; move after move, I felt myself relax. There were slip ups but each paired with a recovery and I puffed up as I watched my baby boy give it everything he had. He tried his best and that's enough and always will be enough for me. I decided right then and there I would let him feel nothing but pride, no matter what the outcome.
As the night of the presentation ceremony came closer, it became evident that we would not be receiving a "soften the blow" email and that he had, indeed, earned his belt.
So, tonight, with the orange belt wrapped around his waist and a smile that could melt an ice cap written from ear to ear, my son reaped the fruits of his labour. I watched as the night unfolded, knowing this moment would be remembered for a life time, ready to be brought to the forefront in times of challenge and adversity. It wasn't an easy road to get here and there were times he was ready to give up but the lesson learned and the fact that I got to witness it, well, there's just nothing better than that!
As originally posted on The Hodge Podge Diaries 06/03/2013
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