Taekwondo has had ups and downs for me these six months. The last two weeks have been a down-cycle, with a cold and horrible cough keeping me from being in class and not being able to give 100% when I am there.
I’m in this phase of feeling like an awkward 8th-grader. I’ve started something new, something with strict rules and customs and expectations, and it feels like junior high again. Like I am unsure of the social heirarchy, the cliques, the groups, and the way they operate. What are the unspoken rules again? What are the actual rules that I just haven’t learned yet? Right now, TKD is feeling a bit like that. I took a cough drop into class and hadn’t told Mr. Ninja. It didn’t occur to me to ask for permission or notify him of said cough drop…but TKD customs say I should have. It was embarrassing to be called out in front of everyone. So then the thoughts in my head echo my 8th-grade self: I could skip PE today, couldn’t I? But I don’t. I cough, feel my head pound in forward bends and think to myself why the heck am I here and not at home on my couch, with fuzzy socks warming my toes and a dog cuddled up next to me?
I give myself the same answer I gave my son last week when he was asking why he had to go to the tournament. If we don’t go outside our comfort zones, they get smaller. And they can get really small faster than we realize. Then that comfort zone is no longer comfortable, but confining, and it becomes not a too-small box but a tight tunnel, a rut you’re stuck in, where suddenly it’s hard to see over the sides and much harder to deviate from the comfortable tunnel. If we don’t push ourselves a little (or sometimes a lot) then we don’t grow.
I admit to him that I’m nervous about tournaments, too, but I’m still going. But being nervous means we care about the outcome. For me and my son–yellow belts–this tournament is three competitions because we don’t break boards yet. So we do poomsae and two types of sparring: two-minute matches and ‘first point wins’ matches. I am dreading my first tournament sparring because I still feel new and horrible and incompetent at it.
My son correctly worked parental politics last and went to my husband with the “poor me don’t make me do the tournament daddy I’m so nervous” argument and that night I was defending this decision to my husband, wondering if I was being a hardass.
How much pushing is enough, how much too much? If I hadn’t pushed him, my son (who was born in Florida and lived there until he was 7) would never have learned how to swim. Not knowing how to swim in Florida is dangerous–there are pools and water everywhere. He screamed the first two lessons, clinging to me in the water as I stood with other parents holding their toddlers. By the fourth day, he was comfortable and learning, and continued with swimming lessons for a long time.
My compromise with my husband? That if he hated this tournament, If he seemed scarred and traumatized by the experience, we’d not make him do more. Because I seriously doubt he’s going to hate it.
Two days after flashing the big eyes and sad bottom lip at my husband, my son got all his gear on and practiced sparring with his classmates. He came out of class red-faced, sweaty…and SMILING. (I had him now!) “Kiddo, this is what you’ll be doing in the tournament. Are you still insisting there’s no way you can handle a tournament? Cause you look like you had fun sparring in class.” Pause. Heavy sigh. “Okay, fine. I’ll go.”
Even though I question my own sanity at times, my true motive is to give my kid some powerful life skills. Courage–meeting fears and nerves and doing it anyway. So I think pushing both of us to do this nerves-inducing, uncomfortable thing will be a good thing.