Nothing prepares a person for life; it just happens. Such is the way for having children. I am the father of six. Yesterday (it seems), my wife Cathy and I were high school sweethearts. Now, our oldest son is 16 and starting to drive. The author Gloria Naylor wrote that, “Time is a funny thing… years melted down into a fraction of a second.” That is what the last 20 years feel like – a fraction of a second. Try not to blink.
Three years ago, my wife and I welcomed our first daughter into the world. Her name is Madeline. Madeline is spunky. She loves her four older brothers, though she views herself as something of an enforcer among the group. If you were to ask her, she would explain in 3-year-old speak, that she’s a dog whisperer. She is an expert cuddle buddy. She takes her Cheerios with strawberries and seems to possess a sixth sense for the presence of ice cream. I might as well state for the record, when I met her, it was love at first sight.
In the epic battle of the sexes, which has waged in my household, the men have enjoyed a distinct advantage in numbers. I have in the past, been haughty about my perceived ability to produce male offspring. However, in October of last year, the women of my tribe struck another blow when we were blessed with our second daughter, Makenzie. She is still new to us, but we are deeply grateful for her and love her with all the power that we possess.
A moment of clarity in parenting is a rare thing; enlightening, and often sobering. Two such moments have occurred to me recently.
It was not long ago that I envisioned my oldest son, reaching adulthood, and had the thought that he would no longer face life’s problems. In essence, I thought that upon his eighteenth birthday he would be, perhaps magically, immune to hardship. To put it in other terms, I viewed the future in the same hopeful shades that every great procrastinator imbues the coming of age – with perfect optimism.
When clarity struck, I realized I wagered on a false hope. I came to a terrifying epiphany. My children’s problems will continue to be evermore complex and difficult, and I will be concurrently less useful at solving those problems. Please allow me to illustrate. It is a lot easier to teach a boy how to find loose change under the seat cushion than to teach a young man how to acquire a job.
It was around the time I realized my son’s problems were only getting more complex when Madeline entered the stage. At that time, a second moment of clarity came to me which changed life drastically: Madeline will, in all likelihood, base her view of what constitutes a good husband and father on my conduct. What’s more, she will probably one day seek a spouse whose treatment of her mirrors the treatment I show my wife.
What does all this mean? To sum up: as children grow, it is harder to help them. Life continues hereafter in ever-increasing complexity. Your conduct as a parent is under constant scrutiny as your child, the one you’d hoped to leave better-off than yourself, absorbs everything. The child is constantly crafting their own world view of people and relationships, morality, and truth, all based on your actions, both inadvertent and deliberate. The consequence of all these weighty determinants? Just your child’s happiness and well-being. No pressure, of course.
In my youth, my parents introduced me to Taekwondo. Like a lot of people who endeavor to learn self-defense, I got picked on as a kid. More than self-defense instruction, Taekwondo provided me with an outlet to grow in ways that did not involve punching or kicking. I wish that I could tell you my experiences with martial arts as a youth culminated in a Karate Kid-esque showdown whereby I availed myself against the abuse I experienced at the hands of bullies. It would be entertaining to state that any unresolved conflict from my formative years was extinguished in an epic throwdown. The fact of the matter is, life is rarely that poetic.
Truthfully, I never fought anyone in school. After about a year of Taekwondo, I stopped getting bullied. No action prompted this; rather I merely learned to carry myself in a different way. Even now, though I enjoy training (sparring), I do not relish fighting and tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible. It is interesting to note that meditation is key to doing all martial arts. Typically, when you bounce around, kicking and punching for long enough, you are going to want to throw up. Early on, the martial artist learns, quite naturally, how to alleviate this desire to vomit through meditation. Essentially, the need to separate one’s mind from the body necessitates this discipline.
If you enjoy meditation, you may take time to ruminate on the caterpillar. Seemingly a desperate and defenseless creature, the caterpillar undergoes a metamorphosis. It is not dissimilar to the changes that a person may experience learning to defend his or herself.
In summary, learning a martial art is an apt, durable solution for coping with many of life’s challenges. Studying the technique of self-defense teaches one how to overcome hardship, how to treat others with respect (even among adversaries), and the value of hard work. The student of fighting will learn how to get hit, how to get up, and if necessary, how to utilize violence sparingly to defend one’s self and others.
Taekwondo has been an essential part of my life. I will continue to encourage and share my passion for martial arts with others – especially my daughters. I will strive to conduct myself according to the tenets of Taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. It is my hope that I will serve as an example to my children, that they will find the same lessons that have instructed me over the last 20 years to be practical and effective. It is my sincerest desire to see my little caterpillars blossom into beautiful, resilient butterflies.
Finally, it is also my hope that if you are reading this, you’ll consider trying out Taekwondo for yourself.
Kyle Webber is the owner of Black Belt Academy in Prince Frederick. He invites you and your child to try out Taekwondo in the new year with a 2-week trial for $19. Visit CalvertMartialArts.com or call 410-414-7530 to schedule your classes.