If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Practice makes perfect…but why do we need perfection?

Nick had his tae kwon do belt test yesterday.

He failed.

He didn’t practice his forms – the 21-step combination that made up 20% of the test.  So when it came time for him to do them in front of the judge, his peers, and their parents, he choked.  He had no muscle memory to fall back on and simply froze.  He grew smaller, retreating into himself, then brought his green belt up to his mouth and chewed on its tag.

There would be no replacement belt this evening.

On the way home, we talked about what he could have done better, and while I tried not to get all Tiger Mom – he’d been asking to quit and I wouldn’t let him – I told him that all we asked from him is that he do his best.  He hadn’t, and that’s why I was disappointed.

He was very quiet after that, and when we got home, he went upstairs to bed.

I stayed up mulling over what I had told him, and realized that I had given him a condition.  If you do not want me to be disappointed, you need to do your best.  Translation: My happiness has conditions.

Ugh. 

I didn’t sleep well last night, racked by the guilt of over-thinking this never-ending task called “parenting” which is really just being present for the wee folk who have chosen to walk this path with us.  It’s easy to promise unconditional love when our kids are still new, cuddly and dependent.  It gets harder once they get older, moody and independent.

This morning I received the following poem in my inbox, courtesy the Panhala Yahoo group:

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

~ William Stafford ~
(The Way It Is)

I wasn’t familiar with William Stafford’s before today.  His career took off at the age of 48 when he won the National Book Award for Poetry for his collection Traveling Through the Dark.  His last poem, written on the morning of his death contained the following lines:

“You don’t have to
prove anything,” my mother said.  “Just be ready
for what God sends.”

Thanks, Universe for giving me exactly what I needed when I need it.

Now excuse me while I go find my hair shirt…

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