[But first, we interrupt this post for a Very Important News Flash: It's that time again! Go! Read! Write! Win a book!]
I have to say, I’m having a real love/hate relationship with Tae Kwon Do. That in itself is pretty funny, considering that I’m not the one taking classes. And I’m surrounded by friends whose children are doing Little League right now, whose voicemails chirp “I’m not here, probably because we’re out on the field!” Class is twice a week. This shouldn’t be a big deal.
And yet, I had such high hopes when Chickadee really took to the discipline. In the beginning, “Tae Kwon Do” was delicious as it rolled off my tongue. Now I often say “Tae Kwon Do” with an inflection that makes it sound EXACTLY like “Goddamn PAIN” and that seems… bad.
When it started, Tae Kwon Do seemed like everything Chickadee needed. It’s fabulous exercise, in an environment that seems just the right mix of team mentality and competitive spirit. It’s about more than just the body; respect and discipline are such integral parts of the form. Remember when I got all hot and bothered with joy because the kids are in there chanting “Yes MA’AM! Yes SIR!” and bowing and generally being reverential? That part is very good!
But then the homework for ME started. First it was a sheet where parents were supposed to track “Best Effort” or somesuch. For an entire month, I was supposed to write down a blurb and the date every time Chickadee really tried hard at something. Swell. Because it’s not enough that I had to sign a year-long contract to pay these people a thousand-something dollars, or that we get her to the studio twice a week, no, it was necessary that in the course of the few precious hours I have with my kids each day I needed to keep a log of the times when my sweet girl really tries. Well. Setting aside, for the moment, that I am pretty much booked up with the normal tasks of everyday life and telling the children to PICK THAT UP and STOP AGGRAVATING EACH OTHER and JUST EAT IT, this is a much more complicated task than I think they realize.
Do I write down that Chickadee really tried her best to get me to believe that she has no idea where all that stuff in her backpack came from? Or when she gave an Oscar-worthy performance of righteous indignation over hitting her brother? (She didn’t do it, she didn’t do it, she didn’t–oh, I saw her? Well, she didn’t do it very HARD).
Okay, maybe not. So do I write down when she “studies” her spelling words? (She glances over the list, declares, “Easy!” and aces the test.) Or perhaps when she works at getting a drawing just right, nevermind that I’ve asked her three times to put the markers away and go take a shower?
So there was that.
Also, when she first started, she received a uniform. Fine. The uniform needed to be hemmed (both legs and sleeves), and patches needed to be sewn on. Okay. I’m no seamstress, but I can sit down and do this stuff. I altered the uniform and put the patches on. It took… well, nevermind how long it took. I got it done.
But then she started bringing home these little STAR patches. I don’t know when she gets them. Alternate Thursdays when the moon is full, I believe. And the stars need to be sewn on her belt, which is five times as thick as the uniform, and did I mention I’m doing all of this by hand? Hmph.
Last weekend there was a benefit demonstration/fundraiser and master class type thing happening. Chickadee raised some money (“How much are you giving me?” she said, pen poised over pledge sheet) and was looking forward to it. Well, the event was outside, and it was pouring, and at the same time I was delaying our arrival in hopes of the rain tapering off, they were deciding to end early because it was wet and cold and miserable. So we missed it. Chickadee was disappointed, and I felt like a lousy mother for not wanting to spend my Saturday standing in the rain watching people break boards with their heads or whatever.
When there was no one at the designated site, we drove over to the studio and found out what happened. The Master tried to comfort Chickadee about having missed it, particularly the board breaking. “Don’t worry,” he told her, “you’ll be doing boards this week when you test for your yellow belt, anyway.” She perked right up.
“Wait,” I interjected. “She’s testing this week?”
“Yes, Tuesday,” the Master answered. I blinked at him. “Ummm… I told her dad.” (We will let this comment slide. Further investigation revealed that my ex had no idea, so SOMEONE in this scenario is either fibbing or very forgetful. We shan’t speculate.) “She’s ready,” he continued. “She just needs to study up for the oral part… her forms are fine.” Okay, then. As we drove home I reminded Chickadee that she needed to find her handbook so we could review the questions for her testing.
The weekend came to an end, and thanks to Basementgate, the Sequel: Wetter Than Ever I hadn’t really thought about this any further. Monday morning I told Chickadee that after school, we needed to make sure she was reading for her testing. “You will come home, and have a snack, and do your reading, and then we’ll sit down with your manual. Okay?” She agreed.
Monday afternoon, the kids came home, the bouncing off the walls commenced, and I asked Chickadee where her handbook was.
Nothing good ever starts with “I dunno.”
We searched high and low, by which I mean that I tore the house apart while Chickadee whined that it wasn’t HER fault, I must’ve moved it, and she didn’t know where it was, and oh look, something shiny here on my brother’s head that requires poking. The handbook is still MIA as of this writing.
My ex is the one who takes her to Tuesday class. My feeling was that she should not be allowed to test, given that she’d not been responsible enough to keep track of her things and study for the exam. My ex is more lenient (shocking!), and agreed to discuss it with the Master, but felt that she should still be allowed to test unless the Master felt otherwise.
I wanted her to learn a lesson. Chickadee is consistently careless with her things, and this is something she really cares about (usually), and what better time to demonstrate the consequences of her actions. Also, I didn’t want to waste the Master’s time if she was going to completely flunk the test.
This afternoon, she got suited up for class, eyes darting towards me as she wrapped her belt. “So, are you going to let me test?” She tried to keep her voice casual.
“It’s not up to me, honey. Daddy’s going to see what the Master says. But I just don’t think you’ll pass if you do.”
“Sure I will,” she said. “I’m GREAT at my pattern and I know all my forms.” The unspoken “Mom, you are such an idiot” hung in the air between us, a silent dare to tell her she wasn’t as good as she thought. She handed me her brush and turned so that her back was to me.
“I know,” I said while gathering her hair into a ponytail and smoothing it back with the brush, “But part of advancing is being able to answer the Master’s questions. And you didn’t even know what to study. If he lets you test, you should be prepared for the possibility that you might not pass.”
“I know.” But the tone of her voice told me that she did NOT know.
When they left for class, I wasn’t sure what to wish for.
A few hours later, Monkey came charging through the front door and started running laps around the first floor. I heard Chickadee coming up the steps and held my breath. By the time I’d worked my way into the kitchen, there she was, pristine yellow belt wrapped around her waist, face splitting with a grin. I was dumbfounded.
I threw my arms around her. “Congratulations! You did it!” She laughed and squeezed me in return. “But how did you manage the questions??”
“It was easy,” she assured me. “A. tested first and I listened to his answers for the ones I didn’t know.”
Oh. WELL, then.
So here I was, hoping that she would learn a lesson about responsibility and preparation, but dreading the fallout. Instead, the moral of the story is that if you’re smart and sneaky, you’ll come out alright in the end.
On the up side, she’s happy. Also, you CAN get away with a lot if you’re smart and sneaky. Though I’m not sure I really needed her learning that just yet. (Who am I kidding? As if she didn’t already know.)
On the down side… ummmm… well, we still haven’t found her handbook.