When Miguel was young, he came to us and asked us to enroll him in a martial arts class and we said, "no". Luisa felt that learning to kick and punch efficiently might not be the best activity for a child who struggles with impulsivity and my reason? Well, my reason was simple - he was a boy and I didn't want that kind of boy. I pictured my son as that macho blonde kid in Karate Kid that makes Ralph Macchio's character miserable. We said "no" numerous time over the years and never provided much of an explanation to him. Ours was the word on high, not to be questioned. The answer was no. Just no. This past fall, Zeca came to us and asked to do martial arts and we were thrilled with the idea. I relished the thought of my girl kickin' some ass and we signed her up for classes. Looking back, I'm surprised that Miguel said nothing because he is pretty big on righteous indignation. But, he was quiet until Zeca earned her orange belt. Then, he came to us and he begged. He told us that he would commit to it, that he would never complain about going to class, that he would listen to us and respect us and do whatever we asked of him if we would just let him do martial arts and I looked into his eyes and realized what a horrible mistake we had made. Luisa's concerns were real but mine were not. I had failed to see him as the person he is and saw him only as the person I was afraid he might become.
We all make mistakes. We know this intellectually and can easily discuss our mistakes from that perspective. We talk about our humanity, about our flaws, about the unrealistic expectations of perfection. I'm an expert at talking about my mistakes but having children has forced me to feel the impact of those mistakes. We as parents have so much power. Sometimes, we use it well. Sometimes, we don't. Sometimes, we exert our control without much thought at all. I have made decisions that hurt my children and I can't unmake those decisions or erase that hurt. I can, however, take responsibility for them. I can admit when I am wrong - I must admit when I am wrong. And, when words are not enough, I must be willing to do more.