Second Chance — Act!

By Zerline Hughes

Yesterday, I cried.

I hate crying. Because I usually cry over nothing, and end up looking weak. But yesterday’s tears reminded me of how much of an advocate for my children I am. On this day, my tears were ode to my manchild.

Yesterday, the boy had his karate test. And by test, I mean, a seven hour tormenting-excrutiating-boot-camp-marathon-running-water-gallon-carrying-sustaining-position work out. I could and would never do it. Alas, he does it, despite me hinting that he has the option to quit. Come every test — about twice a year — he makes the decision to continue at it. It’s all about honor and respect and getting that belt!

2014-11-17 15.57.33

The boy’s many belts over the last five-six years.

My boy is currently a brown belt. If I do say so myself, that’s pretty darn good for an 11.5 year old. What that means is if all goes well, he’ll get his two brown belt stripes by mid 2015, and test for a black belt a year from now on November 7, according to his shihan (instructor).

But all didn’t go well yesterday.

Because I can’t stand to watch him run nine miles from the Washington Monument to Hyattsville, MD, where the karate dojo is located, because I can’t stand to watch him and his counterparts do 2000 jumping jacks and a million pushups on their knuckles for six hours, I missed the moment where he blanked on his passai do kata (one of his individual training exercises which probably has 50 individual movements). What he did do was run the nine miles in something like an hour and 45 minutes, helped a younger student survive the run (which I think is ridiculous – kids running nine miles), struggled through the bootcamp antics, and claimed to have completed the other traning exercises. But he couldn’t master passai do.10451688_10204619928954643_7079477802469415074_n

But I didn’t know this when I walked into the dojo just minutes before the awarding ceremony. Brand new belts and certificates were awarded to about 15 other students. Not until I go near the front of the class to get my picture of my boy do I realize what’s about to happen.

They called his name and all of us clap. He turns to get his belt and is diverted. No belt. Eyes fill up with water. His and mine.

He was told he would have the golden opportunity of a second chance. Instead of waiting for three months, he could retest in a week. Fair enough. Actually, it was very gracious. I’ll even go so far as to call it true juvenile justice.

20141116_140028Soon after, I was called in to shihan’s office. “I need for you to get him here Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.” That’s when the water in my eyes finally decided to drop down my cheeks. So embarrassing. Sure, tell the single mom who’s already struggling to shuffle two kids from place to place while trying to make a decent living to double, almost triple her amount of driving, pick up, drop off and pick up. Tell the mom who woke up at 4:30am Sunday to wake up her first-born child at 4:45 am and prepare him for a 15-hour day that we need a do over.

20141116_134206That’s exactly what he told us.

But you know what, he/we at least get a do over. Thank God. And you know what? At first, and at second, I was feeling sorry for myself and my child (could you tell my dramatics above?). And after delving deeper, I realize that my son knew that he wasn’t prepared. He was aware that he knew everything except for passai do and was hoping that things would just slide.

That’s no way to live. So I told him what happened sucked, was sad and was totally fair.

Life is hard. But our kids — grown ups, too — need training, need to remember that things are not to be handed to us,  that despite odds, we must overcome by learning, fighting, advocating, representing ourselves and others.

Hmmm … sounds like social justice activism, now, doesn’t it. Second chances. Restorative justice, even.

Lesson learned. Let’s see what happens next Saturday. As his advocate, I will continue to do what I can to help him succeed. But I can’t take that test for him. (Thank goodness!)

In the meantime, I need to go to the gas station to fill up and prepare for a marathon of my own.

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