I have made my fair share of mistakes. I’ve let people down. I’ve broken promises (in my youth). I’ve lost more money than I care to admit. But the one thing I got right was raising my son.
This May he’ll turn 10. Ten glorious years of being his father. Like any parent will tell you, it doesn’t feel it’s been that long. Last year was a crowning moment. He beat me in 25m freestyle race and it wasn’t even close. The guy can flat out swim. He is going for his black belt in Karate in two months and he’ll get his green soon in Aikido. All before the 4th grade. There’s no other way to say this but WTF.
Seriously, how does he do it?
I have to thank my parents. Let me explain. I couldn’t have asked for better parents. They taught me to say please and thank you. They taught me not to talk with food in my mouth. They taught me the difference between right and wrong. If they got anything wrong, I’d have to say they let me get away with murder.
Adrian The Wuss
I remember falling off my bike at the age of four because my parents took one of my training wheels. I gave up on the spot and didn’t touch a bicycle again till I was in junior high. My parents didn’t say a thing. I was their one and only. Naturally, I got bullied a bit. My father wasn’t afraid to throw a few punches and got into a few tussles growing up. Me? Not so much. I was a mama’s boy by all accounts.
Haven’t spent so much time in the personal development and time management niche, I realized that I wasted way too much of my time. I had an excuse for everything. At the age of 11, I walked past the after school judo class and peeked through the window. I saw some kids aged 8 and said to myself, “I’m too old to do judo.”
So I made a vow, if I had a son or daughter, I would make sure they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did. Thankfully my son made it easy for me. At the age of four, I remember asking him if he wanted to learn Aikido or Karate (I secretly wanted to start Aikido). Maybe it was because of all the Batman cartoons my son had watched, he said, “I want to learn Karate.” I asked him if he might want to try Aikido or possibly Jujitsu. “No, I want to learn Karate.” Case closed.
I never pushed my son to start anything, I simply presented options to him. For those who may not be aware, there’s a secret weapon I learned from magic called an equivoque. Essentially, you give people choices, but all the choices are what you want.
The Mistakes Parents Make
You do not (like many parents make the mistake of doing) give them the choice of not doing anything. Sorry, but at the age of four, kids have no idea what they want to do, or what they could do. Don’t overload their brain with too many choices, it’s a huge mistake I see so many parents do. The other mistake parents make is forcing something on their children. Even worse. Kids will know that they didn’t have a say in the matter. I get it, but trust me, from experience I can tell you, getting kids to “choose” what they want to learn, keeps them committed. They aren’t forced to go to violin lessons, they “chose” them. What they didn’t realize is their parents only presented them with a selection of different musical instruments to choose from.
Lead By Example
Now, to be fair, I didn’t just drop my kid off at the Karate dojo and head back to catch up on Game Of Thrones. No, I signed up with him. There I was, 38 years old, signing up for my first martial art class along with my wife and son. The three of us started a trend, other parents who came to dojo also signed up. Later when we joined competitions, the average dojo had one or two parents at most who were just starting out, we had over 12.
It felt a bit funny to be surrounded by kindergartners and elementary school student, but I was committed. I wanted my son to see that I would go through the same growing pains he would. We could learn from each other, help one another and share the experience. Last year I got my black belt and it was a proud moment for me. Aged 42, and I had a black belt.
A lifelong dream complete. However, for me, it’s all about my son. Me, I’ll keep at it and move up the ranks slowly. For him, the sky’s the limit.
It’s Never Too Late
I’ve never asked my son what he thinks of me sitting in martial arts classes meant for kids, but I imagine he realizes that you’re never too old to get started. It’s something I want him to pass on to his own children one day. The other thing I want him to understand is that things take time and they take effort, but by not giving up, anyone can accomplish great things.
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Photo courtesy of the author