Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Saia belt-tested tonight. Finally.

Santiago...unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon how you really look at it, did not.

It was a discussion we'd had earlier in the week with him when it became apparent, after a couple of orange card incidences, that he was not gonna make it to the end of the week.

But besides it being just a behavior thing, Saia has really earned her opportunity to belt test. He really doesn't care all that much. She listens to the instructors, she makes adjustments, improvements, tries and tries again. She understands what it means to advance and has worked so hard since December to show us and her instructors that she was ready to move on. He, joyful boy that he is, skips when he should be running, twirls when he should be jumping-jacking, and chats with his neighbors when he should be holding his position. And no matter how many times we pull him aside to straighten him up or how many times he gets called on by his instructors, he's really just not as into it as she is.

So the fact that he'd had a pretty rough week behaviorally was really just the push that Mommy and I needed to follow through with what we already knew was right. She got to belt test. And he did not.

He was hurt initially. Threw a minor fit. But we explained our reasoning and that he would have to earn his turn.

And that, honestly, if he chose to continue to never put forth any more effort, he would stay a white belt for the remainder of the year, and we would be perfectly fine with that. Our expectation of him is not that he becomes the next Karate Kid, for crissakes. It's clear that he's really not in love with karate. But we absolutely expect that while he is still enrolled in this class, that he follows instructions, respects his instructors and classmates, tries his very best every single class, and does not ever just throw up his hands and quit.

And, in the meantime, he was going to dress up and sit on the benches with us to show his support for his sister. Which he did. And it was...surprisingly...great.

Saia was able to feel like all the work she'd been doing was actually worth something. That they weren't just handing out belts to any old Joe Schmoe who put in their time (which they were). That we valued her efforts more than we dreaded a disgruntled boy. That we recognized her individuality. And that, at least for tonight, and for the very first time in 6 years, it was all about her.

So, even though he's only still got his white belt, I really believe it was exactly the right lesson at exactly the right time -- for each of them. There's far too much of this non-competition competition going on these days, in my personal opinion. Where everyone gets a medal just for attending. Where everyone gets a belt or a tip or a star JUST FOR SHOWING UP. Where you're not really required or expected or pushed to excel. Where mediocrity is actually being rewarded.

And then we have the nerve to be aghast at how we live in a society of underachievers? We're RAISING them to be that way, people. Where good enough is praiseworthy. And everyone grows up with this sense of entitlement and thinks the whole world is treating them unfairly.

It really is enough already.

If we don't expect the most from our children, why should they expect it from themselves? If we don't teach them when they're young how it feels to fall, how to get back up and try again, how to better themselves and improve, then how are they going to make it through college, through their first job interview, through their first heartbreak? How would they survive in times of crisis? How do they learn not to just roll over and give up when times are hard, when things aren't going their way, when life is treating them unfairly?

And no, I don't think we're doing the right thing all the time. And yes, I'm sure there are times when we push them more than we probably should. But we work, daily, to find that balance -- between healthy competition and feeling comfortable and confident in your own skin. We're working hard at helping them identify the things they're naturally good at, and helping them learn how to better themselves at the things over which they stumble. Quitting is not an option. Finishing what you start is the rule. And being promoted when you don't deserve it, when you haven't earned it, and when you don't really even care, is just not a lesson we want them to learn. Ever.


Anonymous said...

Great Article. I applaud you for letting her go it alone. And thanks for stepping out there and setting the example for others.

Gunfighter said...

Well done. The martial arts aren't just about belts and breaking things... the goal of any potential warrior is discipline. Without discipline there is sloth.

You were absolutley correct... if your son feels somewhat shamed, perhaps that will help him find what he needs, within himslef, to make it work for him.