March 2016

It’s not that the kids refused to try Judo, but they were hesitant. Elan was anxious ahead of time. We were in the car, and I found myself saying to him, “Listen up. I’m going to tell you the secret to life.” Once that came out of my mouth, it seemed necessary to pull over. I parked under a tree and turned around to face them, my two beautiful boys, their perfect skin, their eyes – brown and blue – pools reflecting liquid light.

“The secret to life,” I said, “is that 95% of the time, no one’s paying any attention to what you’re doing. They’re too busy worrying about themselves to notice you.” As I said it, it sounded kind of sad, yet freeing.

“What about the other 5%?” Elan asked, his brow furrowed between his eyebrows. His eyebrows are thick like mine. Emry’s are thin and arched, like Mikhail’s.

“The other 5% won’t happen today,” I said, channeling the sureness of Mom with a capital M. He was reassured, and so was I. I piloted the car back onto the street.

Emry was excited about Judo, but when we get there, he froze and burrowed himself into my lap. I sat on the edge of the mat, feeling its deep give under my bones, watching the chaos of the preschooler class, their belts falling off constantly, trailing them across the mat like white snakes.

To my surprise, Elan jumped right in on the beginner class, and convinced Emry to do it with him. So that’s how they’ve been doing Judo for two months now – in a class together. They like to be partners for the races and the wrestling, even though Elan is two heads taller than Emry.

I’m not a mom who’s into pushing a lot of afterschool activities. I like a fair number of unscheduled afternoons, those precious hours between homework and dinner for the boys to lose themselves in their imaginary play, their legos and stuffed animals and “guys” of all types taking over every available surface in the living room, until I get cranky and dictate that it’s clean-up time.

But I pushed Judo. “We are going twice a week for a month,” I said. “No arguing.”

And now they’re into it. They each got two yellow shimas during testing, and they’re starting to feel like they belong.

I insisted they give Judo a good try because I want my children to start to understand resilience. How to pick ourselves back up when we fall down, a skill that has always been necessary and will never go out of style, especially in a world as fast-changing as this one.

I watch them go across the mat – rolling, tumbling, awkward, then agile, then awkward again. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Exactly what I was hoping for.


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