Monday, April 12, 2010

I need a strong black belt

My husband and I were at my sons’ Taekwondo Academy for the assembly of really really rude people, although we’d actually gone there to watch our boys test for an intermediary level of black belt.

I know parents can get out of hand at baseball and soccer games. I’ve seen it. But this is the first time I’ve seen parents behaving so badly in a martial arts studio. If you’ve never been to a Taekwondo promotion test, it can really be quite stressful. Not to mention how hard it is on the kids.

Those being tested have to perform their “forms,” elaborate thirty and forty step movements that must be memorized. Then they have to spar, or test with weapons, and finally, they need to break boards. During every other testing ceremony I’ve been to, the audience has been full of quiet respect.

Not this time.

A man behind me was talking on his cell phone. Loudly. He was the only person in the room, other than the instructor, talking. Even though the woman in front of me and the woman next to me each turned around several times and shushed him, he talked and talked. After about ten minutes of this, I couldn’t take it any longer myself and I turned around. The man was facing the side of the room, so the other moms shushing and glaring at him could shush and glare until they turned blue, but he wasn’t going to notice. I reached around and tapped him on his arm, “You’re the only one talking,” I whispered. He promptly got up and left.

Yeah, I have that effect on people.

But wait. There’s more. The group next to us (which my husband tells me rude-cell-phone-guy later returned to join) was drinking what looked like champagne in champagne flutes. At first I thought this was kind of rude. I mean, didn’t their second grade teacher ever admonish them to share? “Did you bring enough for everyone?” I can hear Mrs. Eicholtz asking.

Their get-together was a little different than someone bringing their own personal bottle of water or can of soda. I felt mildly snubbed by their behavior, like they should be including everyone in their little party. But I eventually softened, coming to the conclusion they must be drinking sparkling grape juice and that they would eventually share it with their children when the ceremony was over. Personally, I’ve always been superstitious about drinking champagne before what you’re celebrating is a certainty, but hey, that’s just me.

It wasn’t until one of the guys lifted the bottle and began refilling their glasses that I realized these people were drinking actual champagne. Real alcoholic champagne. They were getting their drink on at a Taekwondo Studio in the middle of their children’s black belt testing. And I certainly hoped they weren’t planning on sharing that with their kids. What on earth were they thinking? I mean, I love my glass of wine too, but couldn’t they have waited until they got home?

We owe it to our kids to be present at events that are important to them. Playoff games and competitions, award ceremonies and concerts. And by being present, I mean being there, in the room, watching them. (Although I will concede an occasional daydream should be allowed.) But we should not be continuously talking on the phone. Or Blackberrying work. And certainly not drinking, for crying out loud.

During this testing, each student had to do three different types of breaks (e.g. roundhouse, front kick, knife hand, etc.) getting only get three tries at each type of break. If unsuccessful, they would fail the entire test. My son was getting ready for his first try at his third break. He’d nailed the first two so soundly, I had no reason not to expect more of same on this one. But right before my son was about to do his final breaking, the instructor’s—and not just any instructor, the owner of the entire academy—cell phone rang. The instructor just let it ring. My son failed to break the board. Then, someone at “the party” next to us knocked over the bottle of champagne and a glass. My son’s head snapped over with a look of concern as he was setting up for his second attempt. My son didn’t break the board on his second try, either.

Do you think his concentration had been totally zapped? I know there’s a lesson in remaining focused in spite of all distraction. I do. But this was ridiculous. Fortunately, after a few deep breaths and several more practice set-ups, he absolutely wailed on the board on his third and final attempt.

He used the kind of force I wish I were capable of, to bring that board down right on top of all the ill-behaved grown-ups’ heads.

And now, I believe I’ll have that drink.

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