June 24, 2011
There's nothing quite like those moments -- those rare public moments when the child you've spent years of your life raising as a kind, empathetic and polite human being opens his mouth...and says the most impulsive, selfish and socially tone-deaf thing he could possibly come up with. In front of God, everybody and at least 50 other adults with video cameras.
So I left a little anecdote out of my entry about Noah's belt test. Because...well, it wasn't exactly the sort of story I felt deserved to be preserved for posterity. At least...not at first. At first it was one of those "let's forget THAT ever happened" stories.
So Noah was waiting for his turn to break his board. It's the last task of the test, the big moment that signals your successful graduation to the next belt level, the part where everybody claps and cheers for you, and not to mention, is completely fucking awesome, because you get to break a damn board with your fist.
But the little girl ahead of Noah was not getting that completely awesome moment, because she could not break her board, no matter how many times she tried. The instructor switched boards, had her practice over and over again, but the board would not split. They quickly abandoned the punching idea and had her try an easier stomp kick move. But the board would not split.
The instructors continued to cheer her on, as did the entire audience of parents, grandparents and siblings -- you know, ANYTHING to keep the poor thing from getting upset or embarrassed during a moment that is solely intended to be a self-confidence booster, as I've always suspected that those balsa wood boards get a secondary helpful bit of snapping pressure from the instructors.
Noah sat silently during this, growing slightly more impatient with every failed attempt the little girl made. Finally, he could take no more:
"SHE'S NEVER GOING TO BREAK HER BOARD!" he announced. Loudly. Very, very loudly.
There are a few sounds that I will never, ever forget, dear readers: The sound my car made during a violent head-on collision in high school, the sound of my newborn babies' cries for the first time...and the sound of every other person in that room making the same horrified and dismayed "OHHHNOOOOOOO!" sort of gasp.
Noah was quickly admonished by an instructor and we, the audience, were ordered to cheer for the little girl even louder. Jason and I looked at each other, completely mirroring the other's embarrassment and desire for the floor to open up and swallow us whole, because yeeeeah.
That's my kid, right there.
The one that EVERY OTHER PERSON IN THIS ROOM is thinking, "oh God, I'm glad that wasn't my kid."
Argh. Kids. Five-year-olds. Whattaya gonna do, right?
Well, if you're Jason, you spend a nice chunk of your afternoon assembling an extremely complicated Harry Potter Lego set while talking to your kid about why that wasn't a nice thing to say, how that probably hurt that little girl's feelings, and what "encouragement" means and why it's important, and suggesting that maybe an apology is in order, the next time that little girl comes to karate class.
But you might also probably feel like everything you said went in one ear and out the other, cuz LEGOS LEGOS LEGOS.
And if you're me, you'll completely forget to bring the topic up again and prompt your kid about that outstanding apology while driving to karate class a few days later. Until you watch the little girl in question arrive late and take her spot directly behind your kid in line, like, ooohhhhhhhhhrightthat.
But if your kid is Noah, you will also watch him immediately turn around and face the little girl. And you will hear him, clear as day, say, "I'm sorry I said you couldn't break your board. I'm sorry you were having a hard time. But you did really, really great and I'm happy you got your yellow belt too."
And you will realize you are sitting next to the little girl's mom. And you will see the corners of her mouth turn up in a charmed sort of smile. And you will see the instructor's face similarly melt, as he turns to your child and thanks him for being such a gentleman and a good friend, and tells him he just earned himself an extra raffle/prize ticket for a random act of kindness.
And then you will watch your kid earn a second ticket for winning that day's special "flying kick" competition, expertly performing a new double-leg jump-kick thing that requires all sorts of gross motor skills and coordination and crossing the midline (and lands 90% of his classmates on their butts), and you will think, "That's my kid. That's MY kid. That's my amazing, unbelievable kid."