–This post is by Joy Freeman, and was originally posted on her blog, Chaplainhood.
One of the pastimes in our family is Martial Arts, multiple martial arts. We all do Tae Kwon Do, also Hap Ki Do for my husband, and Tai Chi for my husband and me. We have lots of years of experience under our belts, so to speak. I have my black belt, and I use that experience and knowledge to guide my daughter on her own journey to achieving her Tae Kwon Do black belt. I, however, am not her primary teacher. That privilege goes to the teachers at our school. Really, she and I are enough alike that it is better that way.
She and I have shared this journey for nine years. It started before she was born. Yes, you read that right. I took private lessons while I was pregnant with her. Granted, they were very modified for my and her safety and with doctors’ permission. After she was born, she went with me every week to class, and as soon as she could walk well and be aware of what I was doing, was in there trying to do what I was. But I was always careful to not push her into Tae Kwon Do. I always wanted her to choose it as something she wanted to do, not something I made her do just because my husband and I did it. But I will admit that my heart was very happy the day she asked to take lessons and work towards getting her own black belt.
So now we go to class together, working-out side by side. She loves to spar with me and also to compete with me to see who can kick the hardest on the kick pad. On some days she comes close to beating me in kick pad kicks. All of this has to do with physical strength, and it is very important particularly as a she works towards breaking her first board. In fact, last week she attempted to break a board and she did it. The look on her face as she realized that she actually broke it was priceless, it was a look of shocked, pleased, surprise. She keeps that board in her room and tells everyone who will listen to her about her board break.
After that day she broke the board, I realized that it is more than just physical strength that she is learning. And it is more than physical strength that I want her to learn. Journeying along side her I have realized that she is learning about strength of character, the importance of trying and trying again to learn something that is challenging. She is learning about the strength of respect. And she is learning the strength of self-confidence.
These are all things that I want her to learn to help her grow into the strong, independent, and compassionate young woman I want her to be. I want her to know the importance of growing strong in faith, and the importance of a strong bond with a church family. I want her to know the strength that comes in questions and searching and discovering her faith-path for her own. I want her to know that there is strength in tears and asking for help. I want her to know that I am not the only one who is with her on this journey of growing up into a strong, confident, and compassionate young woman.
And I am having to learn along-side her, as well. As her personality grows and shapes into this strong and confident young lady, I am having to learn that I sometimes have to back off. I can’t control everything she does. I have to learn to trust in the positive strengths I have instilled in her, and the strength of values that she has been raised with. We are only starting this part of the adventure, and it is already hard. I am having to lean onto my strength of faith, in my daughter, our family, our church family, our Tae Kwon Do family and all of those in our village who is helping to raise her.
I look forward to the journey ahead, both in our relationship as a strong mother and a strong daughter. I anticipate many more sparing matches where she spreads her strengthening wings to stand up for herself, be it physically as we practice Tae Kwon Do together or emotionally as she continues to learn about her own feelings and expressing them. I look forward to this even if it means I sport a few bruises, physical or emotional. Because it means I have done my job. I have prepared her to move into the world, confident in herself, her emotions, her abilities, her faith and ability to stand on her own. So stay tuned, I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned on this adventure.
Joy Freeman is a hospital chaplain, wife and mother. Her ordination is through the American Baptist Churches USA and she holds her chaplain certification through The Association of Professional Chaplains. She is one of the authors and editors of Still a Mother: Journeys Through Perinatal Grief .