Adventures Of Fatherhood

Parent anxiety is a strong emotion, and I get a big dose of it every time my son tests for a karate belt.

That’s why whenever I walk into Chesapeake Martial Arts in West Ocean City on testing night I am always sick to my stomach. Beckett, on the other hand, is quite cool about it all and seems to have no worries at all. As a matter of fact, his simple answer to Pam’s question on testing night whether he was ready was “I got this.”

It turns out he was well prepared and on Wednesday night he received his green belt, but not before having to break a board by executing a running side kick, among several other requirements such as reciting his memorized three-sentence creed and demonstrating a sequence of moves called form. I was confident he would be able to do all this because he practices and attends every session.

However, I was worried about the breaking the board part because it involved him running across the room and doing a “flying side kick” (in his words) to break a board being held by one of his instructors. While we practiced it quite a bit, we were not using a board and I was stressed over it.

Beckett puts a lot of pressure on himself and the prospect of him being disappointed had me troubled and nervous. On the flip side, and just another example of how different moms and dads are, Pam was worried that Beckett would slip and fall prior to getting to the board and hurt himself or the instructor.

It’s a good thing to have high expectations, but I didn’t want to see him come down hard on himself if all didn’t go the way he hoped. During a prior testing night, he saw a fellow participant struggle with breaking the board and the poor guy was quite emotional and embarrassed about it and fought back tears. Beckett talked about that boy and how he commiserated with him for several days afterwards, and I didn’t want him to experience that feeling.

As is usually the case, Beckett rose to the occasion and was impressive, breaking the board on his first try with no trouble. In fact, he was so anxious to perform that he came charging at the instructor without yelling first and had to start over.

I was a proud father that night, but I think I was equally impressed by what happened after it was his turn to break the board. Before I could take a sigh of relief, Beckett immediately started cheering on his school classmate and karate buddy who was up next. His friend was unsuccessful on his first try and Beckett’s cheers of support only got louder, particularly after his buddy’s second attempt was successful.

It was great to see him achieve his goal of getting his next belt and breaking the board, but it was particularly gratifying to see him encourage and be invested in sharing his accomplishment with his friend.

There are so many challenges and concerns associated with parenting on a daily basis, and in my opinion it’s critical to celebrate the achievements and proud moments, particularly when they follow some stress and worries.

I don’t think I will ever forget Beckett’s expression when I told him he could not swim in the ocean last weekend.

It was simply too rough and it was difficult to explain to him on Saturday morning when we arrived on the beach. I knew it was going to be choppy that day, but was hoping for the best that it wouldn’t be too bad for him to do his thing in the ocean or at least improve as the day went on.

After I told him we couldn’t go in the ocean, his look reminded me of a “what the #&@!” expression if I have ever seen one. All he was able to mutter was, “then why are we here?”

He never really got an answer because his parents were a little bit concerned as well about the prospects of a beach day with no ocean play.

Unlike his little brother, Carson, 4, who is happy to play in the sand, Beckett prefers going over, under and riding waves. In fact, he would spend his entire day in the ocean if he had his way.

With that not an option, Pam and I knew it was going to be challenging to keep him entertained. Fortunately, there were some friends down visiting to help with that. Pam was first up on a game of kickball that she organized. That did the trick for a while, but inevitably the questions on whether the ocean was open yet began to fly again.

Eventually, we cut our day short because it was just not a nice beach day. We figured we would return the next day and hope for the best.

It turns out the weather was even worse and the ocean was even rougher on Sunday. As we crossed the dune line, Beckett knew it immediately, saying, “there’s no way you guys are going to let me in the ocean today, right?”

Instead of telling him he was right, he and I walked into the ocean to his knees and he nearly got knocked over several times in about a minute.

As we were leaving the water, he admitted it was too rough for him, saying, “let’s just go play some corn hole then.” He was defeated but he accepted it better the second day.