My daughter was complaining again about having to go to karate class on Saturday morning. “WHY do I have to go?” she demanded. I looked at her, a 10-1/2 year old petite 5th grader, and calmly said, “We’ll talk about it in the car.”
As we started driving, I thought about sugar coating the real reason. I thought about the other, somewhat lesser reasons for practicing a martial art: physical fitness, learning discipline, building character. Then I thought of my own experiences as a 10-11 year old girl, and firmly told myself that my little girl was not going to hear the sugar coated version. She needed to hear the truth. She deserved to hear the truth.
“You are learning karate so that you will know how to defend yourself if you ever need to.” I said. Then, “Mommy and Daddy won’t always be around to protect you. Your brother won’t always be there to protect you. There will be times when YOU will need to protect yourself.” My gut churned with the admission. As a parent, one of my most important jobs is to protect my children from harm. It was a hard truth for both of us to hear. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw her looking out the window in silence, with glassy eyes.
But there was more that she needed hear. I needed to make it real for her. “Your brother was in 5th grade when he had to physically defend himself. Remember that big 8th grader who used to bully him and picked him up off the ground one day? Remember how your brother relaxed his body to make himself heavy so the boy would drop him, and then he threw his head back and knocked the wind out of that kid?” She remembered. We had all been so proud of him for making that kid back off (the bully never touched my son again). I didn’t need to remind her that her brother had practiced Kenpo Karate for 5 years at that point and was a junior black belt. She knew. She knew he had learned those methods of self-defense during his karate training.
We kept driving. I turned on some music to lessen the tension. When we got to the dojo, we both prepared for class and went out on the mat. I’m the assistant instructor for her class. As a class, we reviewed techniques, learned a new one, and practiced them all hands-on. My daughter is training for her orange belt, so she’s still pretty new to the art. She picks up the techniques quickly though, and enjoys training with the other students. I’m obviously very proud of her.
As hard as that conversation was for both of us, I know that in my own way, I am doing my job as a parent to help keep my daughter safe. Hopefully she won’t complain quite so much next weekend.
© ThinkSafe Seminars 2017