Last weekend I walked into a sweaty, loud and energetic sports hall. It was the kids Tae Kwon Do tournament and my little girl was already on the mats sparring against a larger boy. As I walked closer I could see that there were tears on a face but she was still fighting. Within a few seconds the combat had ended and her arm was raised as the winner. There was a big cheer and I went over to see how she was. Louise told me that a minute before she had been punched in the face (which is not allowed in the rules) and the shock and pain, as you can imagine, really upset her. As a result, she was allowed a few seconds off the matt to compose herself and then she came back on swinging. Of course it made the victory extra sweet and we took photos and video of her as she stood on the podium to receive her trophy.
I guess there is never a formula for perseverance. One person seems to give up at the first hurdle, whereas another appears to be unrelenting in life to get what they want. The situation made me reflect on why she decided to come back on the mat when she was given the option of stopping altogether. I wondered whether it had anything to do with the tireless message that Louise and I give her that she can achieve anything she wants. It appears, at least in this moment, there was fruit to our mantra in her little life.
What about our foster children however? I can remember Alice would say things like ‘This will probably happen so there is no point bothering’ or deciding that she would not fit in with a group of people without giving them a second look. She made me start to understand how loud the societal, parental and social voice can be for foster kids in our nation. It is not one of affirmation but rather a shrug of the shoulders where the glass ceiling has already been set.
Of course, as carers we want to instill the same affirmation that we give our birth children but we need to be very mindful of how long that can take. It often will require a massive amount of trying different experiences and approaches to bring out the point of perseverance to a child that has been battered by life. It requires just as much resolve in the persistent message as it does for the kid who gets back on the mat.
I chatted to the kids’ Tae Kwon Do teacher who told me he went through long periods of his training and tournaments without winning anything. His teammates did not watch him but he just kept training and one day with no one looking he won the British Championships. I got curious and asked him if he could do it all over again, whether he would have the same experience or whether he would prefer it to be easier. He explained that when he looks back it was those moments that made him realise two things. Firstly, you have to keep going to get what you want and secondly, that his training academy that he has setup is based on encouragement and mindfulness of the students. As the man who grades the kids says “A black belt is a white belt that never gave up”. May you be the black belt of encouragement to your kids!
“The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph”
The Butterfly Circus