Thursday, March 01, 2012

Proud Moment Sneaks Up On Us

Tonight was TaeKwonDo rank advancement test night, and the excitement was in the air all day about the big evening ahead!  Uniforms were washed and ironed, dinner couldn't be eaten beforehand, and everyone was chattering away about who would be breaking boards and if they would succeed.

The excitement is growing with each test period, as Matthew and Joshua are now red belts working toward black belts.  While that will take another year or two for both, they need to complete much harder patterns and attain much greater technical skills before achieving that difficult goal.  Tonight, however, the joy was muted a bit as Josh was not being allowed to test for his first black stripe, while Matthew was invited to do so.  It was explained to Joshua that he was the youngest red belt out there by 4 years or more than the rest of the students,  and that although he was certainly making good, solid progress he was not yet quite ready for the black stripe advancement test.  We had spoken with his teacher awhile back, and  we all knew that because of Josh's very young age it would be likely that he would slow down in advancement as he moved higher up.  After all, it doesn't quite seem right to have a black belt when you are not even able yet to break a board due to age limitations!  At nine years old, Joshie still has 2 years before he can even attempt it.

Everyone suited up tonight and headed out, and all the kids felt a little bad for Joshua, because they realized this was not really a matter of him not being ready, it was more about something he couldn't control...his age.  Josh, however, said nothing and there was no sign at all that he was upset about the situation.  Unlike other kids who don't suit up or even show up on the night of testing if they know they are ineligible, he said he was going to participate anyway because it wouldn't be right to pout about it, and he wasn't mad anyway and totally understood.

We get to the gym, and the place is packed with anxious students and parents, all ready to show off their hard earned skills.  Angela and Olesya were first in the green belt group.  They giggled and smiled their way through their exercises and patterns.  Olesya is known as the one who can never stop grinning and always gets teased about it by their teacher :-)  Kenny was up next with the blue belts, and after having been ineligible last time to test this time he was outstanding and clearly had made great progress!  Even I was surprised at how much he had improved.  Then it was time for Matthew and Josh with the red belts.  They did their patterns, they sparred, they exhibited their techniques with various moves.  All the while, Josh was not just keeping up with the older students, he was solidly in the middle of the pack, definitely even better than some in several areas.  He was so serious out there, but ran over to us twice to have us retie his new pants which are waaaayyy too large in the waist and kept looking like they were going to drop to the ground!

The time came to announce the advancement awards, and suddenly his teacher approaches Josh, bends down and has an earnest conversation with him.  I see Josh listening quietly, hands respectfully behind his back and head hung low as he was taking in what was being said to him.  His teacher puts his hands on Josh's shoulders, gives them a little squeeze, and I assumed he was giving him a pep talk to reassure him that he shouldn't feel badly about not advancing tonight.  I look to see if Josh is upset, but his face revealed nothing so it appears he is fine with the decision.  He did his best, he can't change the situation, and he has nothing to be ashamed of so he holds his head high and stands there willing to be with his classmates despite his personal disappointment.  Joshie has never been the kind of kid who needs to be the center of attention, and sometimes his quieter demeanor means he gets overlooked when in a crowd.  He is self-assured for a young boy, and he simply goes about his work, whatever that might be, and needs little in the way of compliments or accolades.

Tonight, however, Josh's quite confidence was finally not overlooked.  As the red belts were called up to receive their black stripes, we were all surprised to discover that Josh was called up as well!  They didn't even have a certificate prepared for him, but there he was, at least a head shorter than every other red belt standing there receiving his black stripe.

Class ended and I went up to speak to his teacher.  I wanted to explain that he had not needed to give Josh the stripe because of fear of hurting Josh's feelings, and to let him know we had already been working on preparing Joshua for the slow down in rank advancement.  Their teacher has gone out of his way to be extremely kind to our family, and we wanted him to know he was 100% supported in any decisions he made about the timing of advancements.  As we spoke, his teacher shared with us that he had made an incorrect assumption about Josh's abilities prior to the testing, and that upon watching Josh tonight the other teacher pulled him aside and said "Now why are we not giving Josh his advancement?  He is as good as anyone else out there, regardless of his age or size.  I don't know why he isn't getting his stripe tonight."  They both agreed that they had been wrong, and that they couldn't hold Josh to a higher standard simply because he was younger, so he fully earned his stripe tonight.

While that, of course, made us is not what made me proud of my dear son tonight.   His teacher revealed to me what his conversation with Josh had been about, and he said he asked him "Do you want a black stripe tonight even if I don't have your certificate?  How do you feel about that?" and Josh replied "No sir, I don't want it.  You don't have to feel bad not giving it to me.  I have to earn it and you said I am not ready, so I am OK with that.  Don't worry, I'm not sad.".

What kid, at 9 years old, would turn down something they have worked for months for if it was offered to them, because they wanted to feel it was legitimately earned?  What kid, at 9 years old, would so graciously accept that which might not even look fair from the outside, and still participate giving his very best and not whine or cry about the unfairness?

While the other kids all performed well, breaking boards and showing their TaeKwonDo prowess, and we celebrate with them their accomplishments, the night really belonged to Joshua.  There are times when we all get frustrated with our kids, when they drive us up a wall, when we wonder if they will EVER grow up.  Then there are moments like tonight, when you stand back and watch your child, and realize that in some ways, they have already grown up.  There was much more on display tonight than TaeKwonDo techniques, Joshua's character was on display in a very subtle, quiet moment. Our pride had nothing to do with skill, and everything to do with the fact that our youngest son was the epitome of grace this evening.  I admire him deeply for so many reasons, what we saw tonight was just one of them.


Anonymous said...

What an awesome little man that Josh is! So mature for 9 years old. You must be so proud of his humble actions!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you, Joshua... not only for your skills and advancement in TaeKwondo, but in exhibiting your great character. You have earned much more than an advancement in your sport. You've earned the respect of all who see your humble, gracious character!

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on this terrific achievement. Do they give certificates for character? Congratulations also on perseverance and,of course,on working hard to increase ability and meet goals. You are each and everyone of you are winners. Josh, you are a winner in all of these areas. Yeah, Team LaJoy!


Lindsay said...

All I can say is; yeah Joshua. What an amazing young man.

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand why you are so proud of Joshua. What great parents you are to have such children...children with amazing character. congratulations!
Fran S.