Monday, July 28, 2008

(Almost) Everything I Needed to Know as a Mother I Learned at Judo Practice

... and most of the rest I learned from my mother and grandmother.

“A mother's love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking”

Nice quote from Helen Rice. Not sure it completely describes me. Although I love my children very much, I do believe that certain behaviors are less likely to re-occur if they are followed by a hard rap on the child's head. On more than one occasion, I have threatened to sell a child for scientific experiments or skin her alive and tack her hide upside the door as a warning to her sisters.

Despite all of that, they turned out okay. I learned a lot in college, I did get four degrees after all. Recently, though, I was watching a youtube video from last year of my daughter, Maria, receiving the Emerging Journalist Award from the National Hispanic Journalists Association.

What struck me is that the comments her editors and mentors made about her in the video, were the same comments Ronda's coaches make about her, that Jenn's friends make about her and that Julia's teachers say.

"Maria does not possess the deadliest sin in journalism - fear."

"This kid (Ronda) fears no one. She will throw it down with Olympians, national champions, anybody."

"The really cool thing about Jenn is she is not afraid to stand up to anybody and say what she thinks."

"Julia came up to me (the principal) and said she had a complaint about the way the other girls were treating a new girl in her class. She said, Yeah, she's a little bit annoying but she is not that annoying. They're being mean to her and that's not right."

Years ago, one of the students in an Educational Psychology course that I was teaching wrote a paper on Character Education. The state had something like six "pillars of character education" while the Catholic school curriculum had twelve. I don't recall all of the additional 'pillars' that the Catholic school had but I remember that two of them were courage - courage to stand up for one's rights and courage to stand up for the rights of others.

Maria's award was based on a series of articles she wrote in response to attacks on her for writing her articles in Spanish and English. In her acceptance speech she says,

"You need to know that you do have a voice ... and to take a stand for what you believe in."

Even in high school, Jenn knew to stand her ground. Maria warned her that grade school friendships don't stand up in high school, that everybody is like that. Jenn said simply,

"I'm not everybody."

When she was home last weekend, now a college graduate, her two best friends from elementary school and her two new friends she had met in high school all dropped by the house and dragged her out to celebrate life, friendship and being twenty-two. (Yeah, I hate 'em, too!)

There has been a lot of attention in the media lately about Fletcher Thornton resigning after the New York Times article on the multiple charges that he drugged and molested teenage athletes as well as related articles many other places, including the Associated Press. Credit, deservedly so, has been given to Ronda for first drawing attention to this in her blog and a post on the Judo Forum.

Yes, I am proud of Ronda for standing up, but some, no A LOT, of due has to be given to the girls, now women, who have come forward. One of them is a friend of mine from way back and the other is someone I have just recently met over the Internet. The courage they have shown to speak out knowing that, in at least one case, what was done to them has now become public knowledge, downloaded by thousands of people - it is pretty amazing. What Ronda did was lend her voice to stand up for the rights of others.

What Maria did in Fort Wayne was lend her voice to stand up for people in the community who cannot often speak out.

Jenn is equally amazing. When girls are under so much pressure in high school to conform, to fit in, to turn their backs on old friends, she never blinked. None of my girls have ever been perfect (unlike their mother!). In high school, Maria wore all the right designer clothes, was a cheerleader and on the track team. Ronda had a lot of trouble fitting in during elementary school and was very unhappy. Maria said,
"You just need to decide what part of yourself you are willing to give up or hide to be popular."

Laying on the couch in her overalls, Jenn piped up,
"That's easy to answer. Nothing."

When Julia, who had just barely turned ten years old, ran for student council, she had to stand up in front of the entire school of 300+ students and give a reason for everyone, even the seventh and eighth graders, to vote for her. She said,

"I think I would be a good Commissioner of Publicity because I am a good speaker, I am in the Debate Club, and I have three older sisters so I have a lot of experience speaking up loudly to be heard."

She got elected.

So, what did I learn from judo that I passed on to my kids?

Don't be afraid of anyone. Never back down. Your mother loves you enough to kick you out of the house and make you go to judo practice, debate club, soccer, cheerleading, computer animation classes - anything just to get off the couch and do something. Not exactly all the secrets of life, but it is not a bad start.

In other news...

Jim Pedro, Sr. told Ronda to take the post on her blog down. When I reminded him about that this week he said he didn't say it was wrong for her to post it, just that she needed to focus on the Olympics and that she HAD been training and completely focused so he was right. If you have not met Jim, one thing you should know about him is that he NEVER admits he is wrong. No matter what happens he can turn it around so it comes out in the end as if he is right. It is a gift he has.

Still, it was very cool to hear Jim won the Goodyear "Get There" award for his support of Ronda. This is an award for those who helped Olympic athletes get to where they are. They selected three "medal winners" from around the country and Jim was one of them. He deserves it.


Ice said...

Very Inspirational.

I don't fear physical pain, but I'm not fearless. It's the social fear that I dread. It's so easy to go with the grain, to not stand out. It's easy to blend in and not speak out your mind. To let things go, to say things that will smooth any situations over. To conveniently forget or excuse things. And to not take responsibility for what is right. Sometimes it's so easy to look the other way.

Again, I find your posts insightful and thought provoking.

Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the grumpy old guy. It proves even old people are good for something. :)

Anonymous said...

Mothers and Grandmothers are truly the heroes of the world....