It’s still Thursday so I still have time to post a thankful thought.
I am very thankful for some good news my son received today – he found out today that he was accepted into the impacted major of his choice at UCSC (Santa Cruz.).
I am quite sure that college acceptances are something all parents cheer about but I’m cheering especially loud. Until recently, my 28-year-old son never had any intention of going to college. But a few years ago, when he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, he had to give up a job he loved as a mechanic at a car dealership. His body was no long able to keep up the pace.
So he is starting over.
It isn’t easy for him but he knows he has to learn a new skill in order to support himself and continue to be self-sufficient. And he needs to do it right now before his body begins to give out even more.
Like any parent who is hit with the news that something is wrong with their child, I wanted to fix it for him. I wanted to make it better or make it go away. But I can’t fight Muscular Dystrophy for him. He has to fight that battle on his own.
I cut my writing teeth on articles for the regional parenting publications. They were a new industry. I was a new writer. We grew up together. I had young kids and I often wrote about them. Tonight I was reminded of the first parenting article I ever sold. It was about Ryan and how determined he was fight his own battles in his own way.
WHOSE DREAM IS IT?
“Mom, I want to quit karate.”
With those few words, Ryan, my thirteen-year-old son, declared war.
For two solid years, four times a week, I had willingly driven thirty miles to the nearest karate dojo. In that short amount of time, Ryan exhibited a natural ability that quickly moved him up the ranks. He had earned the first black stripe on his Brown Belt. Only two more tests until he would have his Black Belt. And now, he wanted to quit.
The lessons had been Ryan’s idea, not mine. To me, karate implied violence. To Ryan, they represented power.
“Mom, I’m a wimp. I’m tired of all the bullies picking on me. I need to learn how to defend myself.”
I resisted. My excuses ranged from, “I don’t want you to get hurt. You’ll never practice.” And that parental favorite, “We can’t afford it.”
I didn’t give in until the day he came home with a bloody nose because of a bully who made him kiss the pavement, nose first.
Karate lessons began the very next day.
From the beginning, I sensed something special about the school. His Sensi, (teacher) did more than just teach the kids how to defend themselves against an enemy. He taught survival skills for life.
“Keep your eyes open,” Sensi told them. “Be aware of what’s going on around you. Set goals. Learn the skills needed to meet your goals.”
Once Sensi asked a class of thirty-five kids, “How many of you consider yourselves average?” To his dismay, almost every hand went up.
“Put your hands down,” he yelled. “Never, ever admit that you are average. You have within you the ability to be anything you want, as long as you’re willing to work at it.”
Ryan never missed a class or a test. With the rest of the students, he performed monthly demonstrations in parades, shopping malls and fairs. When special seminars came around, I always made sure he attended. I bought him books and videos, then quizzed him on the material. In my mind, the more opportunities he took advantage of, the quicker he would advance to that all-important Black Belt.
But along the way, I forgot to ask Ryan what he wanted. So I felt shocked and disappointed when he told me earning a Black Belt no longer mattered to him.
“I’m going to quit,” he said. “It’s no fun anymore. Baseball season starts soon and I’d rather practice baseball than karate.”
“But you’re so close to becoming a Black Belt,” I insisted. “Why give up before you reach your goal? Haven’t you listened to anything Sensi has tried to teach you?”
“Yes, Mom, I have. Sensi said anything is possible if you’re not afraid of hard work. I want to play in the Major Leagues someday. That means I have to devote my time to improving my baseball skills. I’d like to try out for the High School team, and maybe play winter ball, but I need to practice hard if I hope to make the cuts.”
“Couldn’t you stay with karate for just one more year,” I begged, still clinging to the vision of his Black Belt.
Ryan stood his ground and shook his head. “I learned what I wanted to from karate. I know how to defend myself, even against people bigger than me. I’m not afraid of bullies or a gang with knife, because I know what to do and how to get away.”
His only other comment was, “If getting a Black Belt is so important to you, Mom, maybe you’re the one who should be taking karate instead of me.”
His words shocked me, much like a bucket of cold water jolts your system awake. That’s when I stepped back and took a good look at my son. There had been no whining. He hadn’t raised his voice or lost his temper. He had come to a decision based on the goals he had set for himself. Then he presented the facts to me in a calm and grown-up manner.
No longer my little baby, but not quite a young man, Ryan had taken the first step toward adulthood by taking control of his own life. Which, I think, was exactly what Sensi wanted to teach him all along.
Nothing’s changed much in the 15 years since I wrote that. Ryan is still fighting his own battles in his own way. And I couldn’t be more proud.
Way to go, Ryan.
I am so impressed.
Thanks, Meg. We do struggle with our kids, don’t we?
Congratulations to Ryan on his good news. And congratulations to both of you on his strength of character.
Thanks, Jen. It’s been a struggle and I suppose some parts of it will always be a struggle. I’m so proud of how hard he is working.
That’s a lovely article, and Ryan sounds like a wonderful guy. Congrats and good luck to him on his next adventure.
Thanks! And yes, he is a wonderful guy. 🙂 I’d say that even if he wasn’t my kid.
Congrats to Ryan == and to you, too, Mom.
Congratulations to you and Ryan. Loved the article, too. I’m going through the opposite thing with my own daughter — I think she is staying in performing arts because she thinks I want her to be in it. I’m trying to let her know it’s okay to quit if she wants, without it seeming like I’m discouraging her from doing it.
Thanks! It’s good of you to let her know it is up to her. Over the years of organized sports with the kids I saw so many parents who wouldn’t do that – wouldn’t let the kids be kids. It was like they were trying to live their dreams through their kids activities and some of those kids were so miserable.
I’m so proud of both of you!
This is the best post to start my morning off with. Thank you.
Please ignore all grammatical errors. It IS really early.
Yeah for good starts to mornings!
Wow. What a champion! You should be proud of each other!
Aw shucks. And thanks. I am so proud of him I could, as my grandma used to say, bust a button.
What an amazing and inspirational story.
Way to go, mom, for raising such a wonderful son.
I’m going to go wipe away my tears now. xo.
Thanks for cheering with us.
Congrats to both of you!
wonderful news. Congratulations!
Wow. I’m really moved. By your space and respect for him. By his new beginning. By the whole story. Here’s wishing health and success.
Thanks, Liz. He’s an amazing kid.
Wow! thanks for sharing that story. It is fabulous. So much there in regards to parenting and writing!
All the best to Ryan as he goes off to school! Being way above average, he will do well!
Thanks. I believe he will do well too.
What courage your son has. And you. Changing paths at any time for any reason is hard, and doing it for a medical reason even harder.
You have an amazing son.
It is so hard, Becky. And he is so amazing for sticking with it.
Congrats to both of you! He’s amazing. Good luck!
Thanks. He’s worked hard for every bit of good luck that’s come his way.
Huge congratulations to Ryan. And congratulations to us, your LJ readers and friends, for getting to read such a special, thought-provoking, emotion-evoking post.
Thanks so much for your kind words.
Beautiful piece. You and your son are fortunate to have each other. Your shared strength will see you through.
Thanks. I try to let him lean on me for strength now but he’s still a pretty stubborn guy. 🙂
Congratulations to Ryan!
And I love your article – your relationship with Ryan and his decisions and yours makes me think of the conflicting voices we have inside us we learn and move along in life.
Thanks. I was tempted to revise the article but that’s pretty much as it appeared in print many, many years ago.
My son and I have learned a lot from each other over the years.
Good for Ryan. He sounds like a wonderful young man. Best wishes for his success and for yours too.
Thank you. I’m so darn proud of that kid. Sheesh, he’s almost 30 but he’s still kid to me. 🙂
As a banana slug alum, I’m so excited for your son; as a parent, my heart goes out to you both and your struggle. I bet he will LOVE UCSC. What a beautiful, peaceful, vibrant place to learn and live…
I adore UCSC. My husband is “slug” too! College Eight.
Do you go to Shakespeare Santa Cruz? We go every year.
We used to go every year before we had E-man…it gets tough now being out so late–I love sitting in the glen though–we lived in Santa Cruz for years before moving to NY–
We were “Cowell” college. =)
It’s definitely hard to let them go, isn’t it?
It is. I seem to keep letting him go on so many levels. I mean, he’s lived on his own for years – but lately other things are changing. I’m just tickled that he got what he wanted and it will bring him closer to me so I can see him more often.