Sunday, May 22, 2011

Korean Bar Mitzvah

This post has been under construction in my brain for the last few weeks.  Three weeks ago #1 and #2 cleared their pretest at their tae kwon do studio.  This was not just any test, it was their black belt pretest.  I have never been so anxious for my kids to do well.  This was something they had been working towards for 5 and 4+ years respectively.  When I say they, I really mean we.  Extra sisters and I have been waiting and watching class upon class upon class.  As the belt-rank increased, so did the time requirements and the class times shifted later and later.  With this progression, our household bedtimes shifted later and later.  It has been a true family commitment.  We spend more time and money at tae kwon do than we do at our temple.  Years ago I realized the benefits of starting this journey early.  If my kids wanted to pursue their black belts, they would need to be young enough to not have major commitments in their way.  Commitments like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, school, other competitive sports, etc...  Each year, as our contracts expired the kids have had a choice to continue or not.  They have always chosen to move forward.  Now, during several times, the quest to move forward stalled but never stopped completely.

I bet you are wondering what my point is here.  Well, with the paper to test for black belt, the kids were assigned an essay topic.  This had to be heartfelt and written without help.  Their topics were specifically assigned.  #1's was "attitude" and #2's was "patience".  Both topics resonated with me.  Please, please, let me contribute to their essays.  What?  This is their journey?  Well, I'll just put my thoughts here then...

Patience.  Uh-huh.  Take a deep breath.  I am not a very patient person.  I have learned patience through our tae kwon do journey.  Patience from sitting through multiple classes per day and week.  Patience from seeing other kids pass my kids in belt advancement.  Patience from things being done differently than I would do them.  I have had to have patience with myself and kids in ways I would never have expected.  Patience with those darn uniforms that never come clean.  One little thing gets on them and it will never come out.  Patience when #3's class time was not consecutive with #1 & #2's.  Occupying my time and that of extra sisters'.  Patience when #1 was not performing to his personal best.  Oh, the torture.  Lastly, patience to let this be their journey, not mine.

My guess is that the intent of "patience" being #2's topic was to take her time.  She started tae kwon do 6 months after her brother.  Within a few months, she caught up to him.  On one or two occasions she even tested for the next belt before her brother.  Her focus is unfazed.  Her determination and teachability are both top notch.  She needs patience to be the amazing girl she is without being too hard on herself.  She needs patience with her brother to understand he is a different person and learner than she is.  She needs patience with her mother to allow her to help.  She needs patience with her little sisters; to remember she is one too.

Attitude.  This is something I am so qualified to talk about.  Oops, this probably isn't a good thing.  There are different ways to look at attitude.  It can be a way of thinking or feeling about someone or something.  It is also defined as uncooperative  behavior.  I think I have a little bit of both.  I have to be careful to keep my attitude in check and in my head.  In a way, attitude is related to patience.  Someone with a lack of patience can be seen as one with a bad attitude.  How do you explain to a 6, 7, 8 etc.. year old that their attitude can impact so much?  Others' perception of one's attitude has a lot of power.  There are places we are held accountable.  In life, no one has to give you grades or reviews.  If there were grades or reviews in being a mom, I'm sure my attitude would be a factor.

"You only have one chance to make a first impression".  This is true.  I've seen #1 work for months to redeem his value to have it shattered in one afternoon by uncooperative behavior (aka a bad attitude).  Yes, these are teachable moments, but so much of it is maturation.  Until a child is able to comprehend the concept, it is so difficult to teach.  Tae kwon do has been so good for my wiggly boy.  His perception versus reality has always gotten in his way.  This affects his self esteem and confidence.  To see him advance in belts and stick with this to achieve his black belt has been amazing.  There have been times when his attitude has gotten in his way and gotten him in trouble in class.  He always felt this meant the teachers wanted him to drop out.  Time and time again I'd try to explain to him that it really meant they believed in him.  Really they saw more in him than he did himself.  His potential and ability versus his performance is prevalent in school, religious school, soccer, baseball and tae kwon do.  I am so hopeful that this achievement can serve as a tangible example of what he can do.  That people are not out to get him.  That his attitude is a frame of mind that can be tamed.

During the black belt test, Sensi was reminding the kids testing to breathe.  Each time he said this, I noticed I was holding my breath.  I wanted them to reach this goal to be proud of themselves.  Each class prior to their test was an opportunity to learn, but it was also an opportunity for lack of patience or a bad attitude.  The decision making was not in our control, but the performance was.  We, as a family, made this last stretch a priority.  I don't think I realized how much it affected me until their speeches were written.  Yes, I had a sneak peek since I am the household editor-at-large.  For once, tears I shed at bedtime were tears of joy and not sadness.  Both #1 and #2 gave a glimpse inside their heads and hearts.  #1 spoke of himself as a boy and looks to the future to becoming a teenager and going to college.  #2 gave understanding perspective of herself and both school and home life.

My last thought on this is that I cannot imagine being any prouder.  My heart soared as my kids reached this achievement.  This was an amazing happy moment in life that I look forward to holding on to forever.  I know there are more events in life for us to learn from, be proud of and be touched by.  I'm happy to have patience and take them one at a time as they are earned and given to us.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day, schedule accordingly

Wow, it's been a while.  Sorry.  I've gotten lost in life.  I'm resurfacing just days before the "all-important" Mother's Day Holiday.

Now, this probably will not shock you, especially if you read my previous post on Valentine's Day.  I'm a scrooge with respect to certain holidays.  I'm not totally sure where Mother's Day fits in.  It's not my birthday, which is my favorite holiday.  I really like my kids' and hubby's birthdays too.  Thanksgiving, Passover and Hanukkah are up there.  Mostly because they center around food.  Even though I don't celebrate Easter, I like the holiday because of traditions we have with friends.

Regardless of how I feel about Mother's Day, I'm being asked to celebrate around the previously scheduled activities of my kids.  Hmmm...  I think I'm a mom because I have kids.  Not totally sure how it all works, but I'm pretty sure about that.  It's like celebrating a birthday because it is the anniversary of the day you were born.  Oops, I'm digressing, back to the topic at hand.  I've been asked (in e-mail) to send my kids to Sunday school and celebrate later.  A coach of one of my kids asked for me (in an e-mail here too) to celebrate before or after practice.  What these e-mails are saying to me is that yah, we know it's "your day", but it really isn't going to be any different from every other Sunday, or weekday for that matter.

Now, maybe some of you have lovely traditions.  Maybe you have families that plan without your input or effort.  That is not my experience with any holiday that my family celebrates.  I love my family to pieces, but they are not planners.  When I say family, I mean my husband.  It's not that he doesn't care.  He does.  He'd do anything.  He's chock full of ideas.  The problem is that most of his ideas are things HE wants to do.  It's really cute, but also annoying.  It does come in handy for planning for HIS birthday, etc.

The kids are too young and are also casualties to the holidays where "mom should be taken care of".    They aren't prompted ahead of time to create cards or have a plan on how to be nicer that day.  This puts them into a panic on the day of and then they start giving me "little treasures" (aka junk) that symbolizes how much they love me.  One of my kids actually gave me $1 on my birthday.  If they're not scrambling to find me gifts at home, they're making me special gifts at school.  In the 10 years I've been a mother, I've gotten ONE useful gift on Mother's Day.  I'd much prefer a hug, kiss, day with no fighting, doing chores without asking and maybe someone cooking my favorite food for me.  This has me reflecting back to trying to buy my mom nice gifts for Mother's Day.  She was born in April, I'm sure she'd like an Aries Ram necklace to symbolize that.  Ugh, sorry Mom.  We tried.

Oops, I'm straying off topic again, sorry.  Whatever we do will have to be done before 8:30 and between 1-5:30.  We already have our tradition of donuts before Sunday School (which I cannot eat) and that's about it.  Do I need more tradition?  Nah.  Then the pressure sets in on Monday.  "What did you do/get, etc.. for Mother's Day?"  Um, nothing?  Isn't being the mother of 4 unique, healthy, amazing kids enough?  It's like Mother's Day is every day.

I'm probably missing the point of this holiday.  While you're busy explaining it to me, explain Father's Day too.  A day where the kids shower the Dad with love and affection and the Dad gets to take time off from doing Sunday chores.  How is that fair?  It seems to be the "anti-Mother's Day" holiday instead of Father's Day.  It's double the work on Mom who does everything during the week and 1/2 of everything on the weekends.  Hmmm, maybe I'll start celebrating Father's Day.....