About a year and a half ago I reluctantly consented to my son’s request to take karate. Initially he was only interested because his best friend was going to sign up for the class. Times have changed! His friend decided karate wasn’t for him, but today my son is a determined little man, who says he’s going to get his black belt by the time he’s a teen.
Over the weekend my husband and I attended Bug’s karate tournament. It was a long and eventful day. Early in the day Bug competed in forms. As he was going through his forms, his yells were louder than I have ever heard him. I saw what a strong and determined young man my boy is growing into.
In individual sparring, Bug had to take on a classmate who is a strong competitor. In fact, when we ask him if there’s anyone in the class that he doesn’t like to compete against, she’s the person he names. When asked why, he says, “She hits hard!” But if Bug was afraid, I couldn’t see it. He ended up winning the match, too!
At one point during the tournament, Sportsguy and I were watching an older age group compete. One of the competitors got kicked in the face. Hard. Even though the room was noisy, we could hear the impact. My hands flew to my mouth, as the blood started flowing out of this young man’s nose. I was horrified.
I turned to Sportsguy and said, “If anyone does that to Bug, you’re going to have to hold me back! I’d have a hard time not running out onto the floor, screaming, ‘My Baby!’”
Jim looked at me and warned, “No you won’t!”
I didn’t know it at the time, but I would be tested later in the day. As the tournament was winding down, it was time for team sparring. Bug’s teammates went first. They were up against some tough competitors. By the time it was Bug’s turn to spar, his team was behind.
He headed out onto the floor, and when the judge indicated it was time to spar, he gave it all he had. And then it happened. Bug got kicked in the face and went to the floor. I heard myself inhale, but I stayed glued to the bleachers. I don’t think I breathed again for another 30 seconds.
Bug was conscious, but he wasn’t getting up, either. Coaches were running to the bathroom, getting paper towels for his bloody nose. By this time I was on my feet, but still behind the ropes separating the audience from the competitors.
Bug got up. The audience cheered. Bug’s team was awarded 5 points, and the other team was disqualified. I breathed a sigh of relief, before heading to my son with a bottle of water. Five minutes later, he was back on the floor, taking on another team.
All in all, Bug walked away with a first place in forms, a first place in individual sparring, and a second place in team sparring. And I walked away a little wiser.
What did I learn?
Lesson #1: My son is very capable. Around the house he complains about things being too hard. My mommy instinct is to make life easy for him and help him out. But the truth is, Bug has a lot of determination, and when he’s got the right mindset, he can overcome some serious obstacles, work through the pain, and come out on top. I just need to get out of the way.
Lesson #2: Life isn’t fair. Ok, I already knew this one, but it’s hard to apply it to my children. In a perfect world, Bug would never take a hit to the face that results in a bloody nose. Everyone would play by the rules, and nobody would get hurt. (To be fair, the kid who kicked him probably did it by accident.)
However, sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. We get hurt. We just have to pick up and keep going, despite the pain. My son showed me that he is able to do that, and I’m proud of him. That’s a tough lesson to learn.
Lesson #3: I am capable of more self-restraint than I thought I was. As I mentioned before, I like to step in and help my children. But when Bug got hit in the nose, I made a conscious decision to hold back. It was hard. Really hard. But I watched my son put himself back together and walk away with his head held a little higher.
Letting children face and overcome obstacles on their own gives them confidence. I’m sure that today Bug feels more like a man than he did before the tournament. Had I stepped in to bail him out, I would have robbed him of his sense of accomplishment.
Being a kid isn’t easy. Neither is being a parent. But life itself isn’t easy, and kids and parents both need to roll with the punches, so to speak. A lot can be learned from adversity, and let me tell you, karate provides plenty of adversity!