I May Be That Mother

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Next stop: Red Belt

You know the one:  she’s jumping up at sporting events, bawling out coaches and other players, encouraging get in there and kick the other kids’ butts. Yeah, that’s me. At least my kid doesn’t play a team sport, but if he did…

What my kid does is take karate at the Dale McCutcheon School of Martial Arts in Uniontown, Ohio. He started in grade school when he received an invitation for a two-week free trial from a former classmate. At first, Joshua was anxious, but his friend and another buddy would be there with him. You should have seen them in their fresh white karate gis, belts tied haphazardly around their thin waists. Joshua looked nervous in the picture I took the first day; you can tell from his cheesy smile.

That was umpteen million years ago. Today, Joshua is a freshman and testing for red belt. The test will be at least four hours, possibly longer. Even as I type this I can feel the anxiety building in me, tears welling in my eyes. I don’t think I can watch this time. Brown belt testing was hard enough. Five and seven-man attacks are the worst to watch.

I remember flying out of the observation room, storming down the short hallway, standing with my toes pressed against the mats, screaming, “Punch ‘im, Joshua! Punch ‘im in the nose! That’s it, baby, hit ‘im harder, HARDER! Knock ‘im into next week!”

The only thing that kept me from flying onto the mats to join my kid in battle was the respect I have for the black-belt instructors, the school, and karate in general. When I returned to the observation room, another parent asked, “Are you all right, Momma?”

In my defense, I don’t do it because I think the whole process is unfair or that my kid is getting picked on. I also realize this isn’t about me.  But ask yourself (not you, dads): How would you react when five to seven larger kids are jumping your kid all at once? So, yeah, I don’t think I’ll be going tonight.

UPDATE: My mother called to say she thinks we should attend this evening up to the point when they conduct attacks. Then we’ll bail out to McDonald’s for coffee and torture ourselves imagining the worst.

Beer and Cigarettes

I think I might be a terrible mother. (Somewhere my mother is nodding her head Yes.) Ever since our son, Joshua, was born, I have tried to make good choices for him until he was old enough to do so for himself. For those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking This is going to be one of those stories where she believes she’s been too hard on Joshua, but we’ll reassure her she did the right thing. It’s not.

It started the day we took Joshua to B.A. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland. Our baby was going to be a freshman in a few days, and we wanted to give him a treat before he started high school. What better way to ensure our baby remained a baby than by taking him to a gigantic candy warehouse?  The usual complaints of are we there yet didn’t even phase us as we made the long trip. We had to endure them because our destination was a surprise. Imagine the look that would appear on Joshua’s face when we arrived. I did.

I dreamed about the three of us leisurely strolling every aisle, choosing candy with the same care a diamond buyer would give an uncut stone, and greedily wiping out over half our stash on the long trip home. It would be perfect. And it was with the exception of one small glitch:  Joshua spied the gigantic Jelly Belly dispenser upon entering the building. He rushed over and began reading flavors on the front of each sleeve of jelly beans. No, no—this is not how we do it. Joshua, you completely passed the bins of old fashioned candy over here. We must do this in an orderly manner so we don’t miss anything or overspend. Of course, I didn’t say any of this to him.

“Mom, they have Pomegranate.” (His favorite flavor in life.) “And look, Cappuccino. Can I have these, Mom?”

“Well, Jelly Belly Beans are very expensive. Why don’t you make sure this is what you want before we take them out? We can’t put them back like wrapped candy.”

“Okay.”

What a great kid. He endured my plan of touring the building and found other things he wanted. He enjoyed it, too. I was secretly pleased when he chose a few old fashioned candies that pre-dated me. Tootsie Pops and candy cigarettes had been favorites among the candy in my Halloween pumpkin. However, the Jelly Belly Beans were his goal and exactly where we ended up. That’s fine. I tactfully pointed out that he needed to weigh the beans to about a quarter of a pound so we didn’t go over our candy budget. Like the trooper he is, he did.

It was no surprise when he chose Pomegranate and Cappuccino. Then he found a flavor that wasn’t exactly, how should I say this, savory?

“Mom, look—Draft Beer.”

“Uh, yeah. What about Mint Chocolate Chip or Mango Chili?”

“Can I have these?”

“Why?”

“I want to see if they taste like beer.”

“And how would you know? How about Sizzling Cinnamon? Those are great, Josh.”

He smiled halfheartedly and shoved his hands in his pockets, but he didn’t move away from the dreaded flavor. My inner mother braced for a confrontation. I stepped closer to appraise the offending candy. It was actually quite pretty; a soft golden jelly bean with a pearlescent coating. So innocent looking.

“All right, but just a few.”

We paid for our ridiculous quantity of candy and went home a happy, satisfied family. Internal mother reared her head again, so only one item each was sampled during our drive. Joshua did not choose the Draft Beer beans. That happened a few days later.

He sat cross-legged on my bed with his bag of beans. I could tell he wanted my approval for having chosen them and now eating them. He placed one in his mouth and chewed. The expression on his face was priceless.

“Ugh, they do taste like beer.”

“Again, how would you know?”

“Here, Mom, try one.”

How to describe the taste? Really, really cheap beer that ends on a sickening sweet note. What were you thinking, Jelly Belly? What’s worse, the flavor lingered on my breath. I believe these things would get a person in trouble with a cop in the event that said person was pulled over for speeding.

“Aauugh, this awful. I can’t believe I let you buy these.”

Joshua was quite entertained at this point. He wanted something else from the pile and grabbed his candy cigarettes. That’s when it hit me.

My precious baby sat there with a bag of Draft Beer jelly beans and a candy cigarette elegantly positioned between two fingers. He held it like a pro. Images of out-of-control college parties swam before my eyes.

“I am such a terrible mother. I let you buy Draft Beer jelly beans and candy cigarettes.”

An ornery grin spread over Joshua’s face, lighting up his eyes, before he said, “What kind of parent are you?”

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