By Mir
June 6, 2006

[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.

“I dunno.”

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.


  1. Cele

    Haven’t you realized that in parenthood when your child needs a lesson learnt, you’re the one on the learning end. It still drives me crazy. But at least there is harmony.

  2. Melissa

    I remember passing things doing the same thing, in school. I won’t dare tell my kids that.:D

  3. Marvo

    Remember, street smarts is just as important as book smarts. Also, I’m willing to bet $10 that Wetter Than Ever is a pr0n title.

  4. Theresa

    Ya know, I’ve been known to finish E’s homework for her, when she was at a track meet and had softball practice afterwards. May not have been the right thing, but I figured if she KNEW the work, and time was her enemy, I could justify it. So I guess sometimes the right thing isn’t always 100% right.

    The next test, maybe you should make her take more seriously. But a part of me gives her credit for being sneaky and smart enough to listen for those answers.

    Sorry. I am no help at all! :D

  5. Bob

    She will eventually learn that lesson. But if she is as smart as you it may be a long while yet. A loonnng while. Gray hair and prunes will be involved.

  6. Kris

    Just wait until there’s SWAT and STORM and all those DEMO group things that she’ll want to be in.

    We’re there five days a week. Six if you count our current weapons class (but that only runs once a week for five weeks right now). It’s always something.

    You guys must bw WTF. We’re ITF and don’t do the oral stuff. (But then we’ve discussed it before. I’ve got that free ticket out of the oral situation. *Snurk*)

    Seriously though – those lessons learned opportunities – I swear they’re lessons for US to learn. Bleugh.

  7. laura

    The foundation for my whole life’s successes is being smart and sneaky. You talk about it like it’s a bad thing.

  8. Jennifer Morgan

    Two words for the little star patches: fabric glue. Or Wonder Under. I’ve gotten so lazy about mending that I’ve even started to fabric glue my own hems when they fall out. Hey, it works.

  9. Karen Rani

    You know, when I read stuff like this, about The Older Species of Children, I seriously consider called the Gypsies and striking a deal. Hold me.

  10. Karen Rani

    calling* CALLING! (Gah – typos suck.)

  11. Jenn2

    This is undoubtedly one of the hardest parts parenting, especially co-parenting. Rest assured that the lesson is eventually learned, though if she’s like Drama Queen, she’ll have to learn is about a million times.

    And by the way, DQ is still careless with her crap, but we’ve gotten as far as her telling us when she has two reeds left. Progress!

  12. Vaguely Urban

    I say, Gold Star for you, for being joyful in her success! (No need to sew it on anything, though.)

  13. tori

    I just had to comment on how it all worked out well for your daughter despite not actually having studied. That seems to always be the case for my daughter too. She was in a play (Alice in Wonderland) and refused to practice her lines. I found out later, that she halfway learned her lines, and mostly just said what she thought the character should say. And she was brilliant and funny in the play. No one ever knew she had no idea what she was supposed to be saying. I guess maybe the lesson in this (for us) is that our daughters are resourceful enough to be able to do well in life whether or not they “play by the rules”. Sometimes I even wish I were more like her! So, congratulations to you to raising an awesome girl who is resourceful (or sneaky if you want to call it that) enough to be able to solve her problems all by herself and find success!

  14. kym

    Reading this is like reading a page out of my life with Emma. Just not as funny or written as well. :)

    Emma’s lessons of late are about the same. She procrastinated on a report for school and made her presentation materials (1/3 of the grade) the morning OF the presentation before we left – took about oh… 7 minutes. She got a high B. Moral of the story for her? Me giving 10% effort gets results better then kids giving 90% effort. So why give more then 10% effort?

    I hate when natural consequences don’t teach the lesson I want to teach!!!

  15. Peek

    If Chickadee is anything like my darling daughter she purposely hides things and then can’t remember (or so she claims) where she hid them. Makes for a crazy Mommy.

    Congratulations? Not sure if that seems appropriate or not.

  16. Amy-GO

    I’d make her give the belt back for cheating. No, I’m not kidding. This is why I am the all time champ and lifetime holder of the Meanest Mom Ever Award. Jack got sent to the principal’s office two weeks ago and he still wishes he had committed suicide instead! ;)

  17. bigbadex

    Mir misunderstood what happened.

    The instructor asked each of the 2 students testing several questions and by chance he just happened to ask Chickadee the ones she knew and the other student the ones that she didn’t know. She got lucky, there was no sneakiness involved. Maybe the other student got lucky too…who knows if he knew the answers to the questions that were not posed to him.

    never forgetful,

  18. Waya

    My husband was in Tae Kwon Do for 4 years when he was 13 and he even competed at Madison Sq. Garden, now this was a looong time ago but he never had to go through all those paperworks.

    Boy, the stories he had regarding his teacher, granted the teacher was good and everything, and his extra-marital activities! Interesting, is right!

  19. Nothing But Bonfires

    I love that he’s called The Master. Any chance you could get her to call YOU that too? Or maybe you could be The Leader? The One In Charge? Oh Great One?

  20. Belinda

    Well, that’s just classic. I wonder if she’s thinking she taught YOU a lesson?

  21. InterstellarLass

    Chickadee sounds exactly like my daughter. Misplacing things and still coming out on top. Some people just have that natural luck.

  22. Ms. Cornelius

    I earned my black belt in TKD this last fall. It sounds like you are at one of those chain places, what with the fundraisers and so on.

    There are good websites online you can use if the Youngun ever loses her book again.

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