“Half” what’s what people in Japan call my son. He’s got a Caucasian English father (me) and a Japanese mother. Like other mixed children, he looks somewhat of a cross between us. In my son’s case, he looks quite Western. He has biggish eyes and light brown hair (a mix between my blond genes and my wife’s brunette genes) making him relatively easy to spot on sports day. But standing out isn’t always a good thing especially in school.
I remember what school is like. Kids can be cruel. All you want to do is fit in. To be like everyone else.
Me, I was bullied in school. I was slender, wait, let me change that. I was skinny. I also had a weird accent (I transferred in) and I didn’t know the lingo. Not a good combination. To make matters worse, I was oblivious to fashion trends. As a result, being made fun of was somewhat of a daily thing for me especially in junior high.
I did not want my son to go through that. But there’s only so much a parent can do. Thankfully, if done correctly, it’s more than enough. Let’s take a look at how I helped my son prepare for school and life.
But before I do, a few points to consider:
1. Racism exists.
2. People respect ability.
3. In life, there are winners and losers.
Children understand the last point better than anyone. Even at the age of three, kids understand the concept of winning and losing. It could be a race, a board game, rock paper scissors, or simply a thumb war, they want to win.
The first point though isn’t something kids understand. It’s something they learn from their parents. My parents taught me from a young age to respect people regardless of the color of their skin. I remember one of my good friends in England was Vaughn who was born in
England but his parents were of Korean descent. He looked 100% Asian but sounded just like me. He actually taught me the second point.
I was sent to the local pool for “swimming lessons” at the age of six. My parents told me I loved the water as a kid. Just one problem, I couldn’t swim to save my life. Vaughn, on the other hand, was good. So good in fact that while the rest of the class was in the kiddy pool, he had a private lesson with a teacher in the big pool. I admit I envied him.
So with those ideas in mind, to prepare my son for school and for life, here was my simple three-step master plan.
1. Learn a martial art.
2. Learn how to swim.
3. Respect others.
Parents can’t always be there for their kids, that’s where martial arts come in. I wanted my son to be able to protect himself and, if need be, kick some bully butt. Moreover, moving up through the belts gives children a sense of accomplishment. I knew that if we started him earlier enough, time would take care of the rest. I was right. Today, he’s a black belt. It took six years.
Second, many kids can’t swim. Some adults can’t. My friend Vaughn made swimming look so easy and in the process, he earned the respect of all his classmates. I wanted that for my son. So the same month my son started Karate lessons, he also started his swimming lessons. I just never expected how far he’d take it. Next week, my son will be going to his second Junior Olympics participating in both the freestyle relay team and individual 50m freestyle. In doing so, he’s earned the respect of his peers.
The last point is simple. Like my parents did to me, I taught my son to respect others regardless of skin color, ethnic background or race. Kindness, intelligence, and humor are not traits reserved for certain races or cultures. In every country in the world, good and evil exist. You can’t blame children for the sins of their father (or mother), nor can you blame your race for your personal choices. We are all individuals and we should never judge people based on how they look. After all, looks can be deceiving.
School, like life, can be tough. Armed with these three skills, I hope my son will be able to navigate the treacherous waters ahead. But I can say one thing – so far, so good.
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