The first part of being a parent is the realization that you’ve no idea what you’re doing. The second is the fear that you’re doing something wrong and your kid is going to wind up either a serial killer or (God forbid!) a lawyer.
In keeping with our “don’t raise a loser” policy we’ve been taking our urchin to a Karate dojo. It’s an expense we can ill afford but I wanted him to see an environment where progression is based on merit to counter the public school’s method of rewarding time served. I’m clueless about martial arts but his dojo seems to know the score. I love them for it.
My kid appears to love it too. He aspires to be something between a Jedi Master and a superhero. I think he grooves on the cool uniform and was inspired by Ralph Macchio. I haven’t yet convinced him that Yoda is cooler than Obi-Wan but at least we’ve got a way to discuss the value of character. It’s a deeper well than exchanging fart jokes.
Alas he’s just starting out. Everyone gets to be a white belt when Mom and Dad cut a check but his first belt test looms. Like most modern overprotective parents, I wonder how he’ll react if he doesn’t pass his first belt test. Am I putting too much pressure on him? My concern weighed on me.
After class, as a reward for his genuine effort, I took him to his favorite restaurant; a McDonalds with a Playplace. McDonalds is hell and a Playplace is purgatory. I’d rather be gnawed to death by weasels than go there but he’d earned it.
It was pandemonium. A birthday party was winding down and sugar addled feral children were shrieking like howler monkeys suffering heroin withdrawal.
The cavernous room echoed with the noise of squealing, yelping, whining, crying, manic devil-beasts (for no human can screech at those frequencies). They ran about in random directions bouncing off walls, tables, and each other in a frenzied mammilian chemical reaction of stupidity. Fries, plastic trinkets, spilled soda, and shoes were strewn about. I desperately wanted to douse the entire place in antiseptic lest I contract something unimaginably gross. Some of the more rambunctious hellions could use a few shots with a taser to knock some sense in them too. (Did I just say that? Yes I did. Children needn’t act like berserk four foot tall disasters that scream loud enough to make the paint peel.)
My kid tore off into the jungle gym like a hound dog on the scent of something exciting. I was pleased to note that he wasn’t shrieking like a banshee. Nor was he covered in ketchup and fry slime. Nor did he inexplicably run full tilt into solid structures like walls and plate glass. He was having fun without the gear stripping unhinged caterwalling of the thundering herd. A few other kids played happily without being self contained Jerry Springer shows. Their parents and I exchanged mutually sympathetic looks as other parents ignored their broods of demon-spawn engaged in full tilt melee.
The obvious contrast came to mind. Ten minutes earlier my kid had been at the dojo eagerly watching sensei’s every action. He had the full and earnest desire to be every bit as excellent as that sensei. Every session involves behavior beyond “good” and veering into attempts at excellence. In ten minutes I’d dropped out of the dojo where “seek perfection of character” is not ironic and sunk into a cultural morass where having a temper tantrum on a pile of french fries is unremarkable. Such a wide gulf.
Talk about a feeling of validation! Concerns about too much pressure abated. He seems to have mastered his kata but even if he doesn’t, he’s already risen above the abhorrent freakshow I was watching. Good for him. There’s hope for us all. Though I heartily recommend that all adults avoid McDonalds Playplaces just in case the howler monkeys are rabid.