Monday, November 21, 2011

Our Saga towards a Black Belt

This past weekend was momentous--Kai and Ren in 4 shows of Annie Get Your Gun and Ren's black belt test.  Tonight I'm going to write about the latter.

Tae kwon do has been, to put it mildly, a battle.

If I've been a Tiger Mom in any sphere, tae kwon do is probably it.   I've pressured him.  I've forced him to do it.  I've made my son cry.  My mother, who doesn't believe in bribing kids for anything, has bribed him with $50 for the red and brown belts with a bonanza of $100 for the black belt.  And for 2 women who really could care less about anything athletic, that's a lot of Tiger Momming and Tiger Po-Po-ing.

Ren at 14 months, able to get to sitting,
not able to walk for 3 more months
A neurologist once called Ren a boneless chicken breast he had such low tone.  I began worrying when he was 6 months and all he could do was lie there.  His sisters had been able to get themselves to sitting by then, so I mentioned it to our pediatrician, who of course told me not to worry.

Three months later, he could sit if we put him in sitting position, but still couldn't get himself there by himself.  The pediatrician then agreed that we should look into early intervention.

That took awhile to start, so by the time he was 11.5 months and still unable to get himself to sitting, I was really worried.  When Carol, his early intervention therapist first showed up, she taught me the simple trick of placing toys by his sides, cajoling him to cross his mid-line.   Within a week, he could get himself to sitting.


Since then, it's been a journey.

By the time he was 4, he was too "normal" to qualify for any help, but clearly not "normal" by "normal" kid standards.  The last physical therapist we saw on the government's dime said in parting, "Keep him active because he's not going to want to do it on his own."

So we've forced our son to learn gymnastics, swimming, skiing, snow-boarding and tae kwon do.  Everyone of those accompanied with tears, shouts and accusations that I'm a really really mean mommy.

Extra-curriculars are a privilege for his sisters.  With him, they're mandatory.

Ren after his first lesson with "Sir"
I liked the idea of martial arts because any half-Asian boy with the potential of being painfully skinny or seen as a wimp could use a martial arts boost--seemingly the one cool manly Asian activity in our culture.

And Ren was pretty enthusiastic.  He went in for a private lesson with Tom, known as "Sir" to the kids, who taught him the first 6 basics, and gave him the outfit.

But by his blue belt in 2008, he was ready to quit.  Belts came farther apart.  The moves were harder.  He felt bored.

It didn't change the advice we'd received so long ago, and it was clear he wasn't going to replace tae kwon do with any other physical activity--hence more cajoling, arguing, shouting, tears and "you've come too far to quit now."

By the time he earned his brown belt, we were adamant.  "You don't come this far to not go for black belt!" Scott was Tiger-dadding along with me.

The fateful day finally arrived Saturday, 5.5 years after Ren received his white belt--the morning after he opened in Annie Get Your Gun, and 4 hours before the next show.

My parents are here for Thanksgiving (first time I'm with them in 29 years--read here), and came early to catch the show and the black belt test.

The test took 2 1/4 hours--poor Baba was snoozing during much of it.  The kids performed their forms individually and sparred at the end.  The girls were ferocious!  Ren and his partner a bit more cautious, but Ren impressed us all with his spin kicks.

When the test was over, Sir said some wonderful life lessons including
Getting your black belt and then quitting is like getting your driver's license and never driving a car again. 
Tae kwon do is a sport you can grow in for the rest of your life--you'll never get cut, you'll only be encouraged to improve

And best of all:  
When you received your white belt, I said the next time I tie a belt around you will be when you receive your black belt.  Now I want you to come forward, hand your brown belt over and I will tie on your black belt for you.
Wah!!!  I had forgotten he said that 5.5 years ago.  

Watching Sir tie Ren's black belt after years of practice, perseverence and pain (mostly mine as I argued with Ren about going to tae kwon do) made me all teary.

And today, the first tae kwon do class since receiving his belt, Ren couldn't wait to go--to show up as a genuine black belt.  

I guess he's decided to drive that car now that he's gotten the license.  

Good for him!

1 comment:

Tara Edelschick said...

I'm crying too. Mazel Tov, Ren!

And go Tiger Parents. Tiger parenting to go to Harvard seems crazy. Tiger parenting so that your kid can enjoy a strong, healthy body seems just right.