Last week I had a post titled “Be a Champion, Part One.” Just in case someone couldn’t figure it out from the title of this post, which would make me question your ability to tie your own shoes, today is the second half of that.
The chances of me ever being a champion in the athletic professional sense are slim to no effing way. But, I like the idea of calling myself a champion. I believe that the term champion doesn’t have to be reserved for professionals. We can be champions in our own ways. – from Be a Champion, Part One.
The second type of champion I want to strive to be is the most important one to me. I hope to be a champion for my kids. It terms of BJJ, mostly a champion for my oldest son, Drew.
Don’t get me wrong. I love both my kids equally and there are many ways that I can be a champion for both. However, I feel like Drew needs me more in a BJJ sense than my youngest. And, honestly, I need him too.
My youngest son, Jackson, and my husband, Mike, both have a lot of natural ability and instinct with BJJ. They both have picked up techniques fairly quick and they both experience a more effortlessly positive and happy relationship with BJJ. It would be a pretty rare occasion for them to leave class without having gotten a submission. I think it’s more uncomplicated and naturally fun for them. A lot of times they just can’t relate to what it’s like for Drew and I.
Drew and I both struggle a lot. There are some age/gender/size differences in our struggles, but for the most part, we struggle a lot in the same way.
We both constantly lose. Every class. Almost every roll.
If we want to find victories often times we really, really have to search the fine details to find them. Getting a submission is a rare treat and we spend the majority of time getting dominated and smashed.
I know through previous mistakes and regrets that giving up when something is a challenge is never the way to go. I know that quitting is never the way to win or to get better. I know that losing sucks, but that it isn’t the end of the world. I know that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. I know that the key to success is through hard work, perseverance, and determination.
Drew’s an 11-year-old kid with a lack of life experience that doesn’t quite understand all of that just yet. This is where I feel like it is important for us to be a champion for him. To be his inner voice that says, “You can do this! I believe in you!”
They say that the key to raising your kids with the traits you want them to possess is not to tell them, but to instead show them. Us doing BJJ as a family gives me an opportunity to do this often. I also have the added bonus of extra motivation to never give up. I know that my kids are watching me and if I quit, I would be showing them that when things get hard you should give up. When you are frustrated, you should quit. When you feel defeated, you should walk out and never come back.
Life isn’t easy and I want my kids to learn how to fight through the tough parts and to refuse to give up just because something is a challenge.
I’ve watched Drew struggle a lot in class. He puts all of his focus and value on winning and losing. Mostly losing. He thinks because he is mostly on the losing end of a roll that it means he isn’t any good and often times he feels like he’ll never get better. He gets frustrated and just gives up so quickly. His first instinct goes to quitting instead of fighting through. He’s been in his head so much the last few months that he has had some rough classes. A few weeks ago after a tough roll that he got really embarrassed about, he cried and told me he wanted to quit.
I did my best to comfort him and tell him that it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to lose, but I was stern when I told him that it is not okay to quit.
It’s one thing to tell him all of that. In those moments of defeat and frustration I have to find opportunities to show him. Thanks to BJJ it’s quite easy to find those opportunities.
A few minutes later he sat there at the edge of the mat as I rolled two rounds with two different brown belts. Afterwards he looked up from his phone and asked me in an excited voice, “Did you win, Mom!?”
“Nope,” I told him with a smile. I laughed a little when I said, “I never win, Drew.”
Later on he asked me, “Do you really never win?”
I told him that I could probably count on one hand how many legit submissions I’ve gotten over the last year and that the majority of my time on the mat is spent in what most would call loser-ville.
“How do you not want to quit?” he asked.
I don’t remember word for word what I said, but it was something along the lines of this:
“Because I think it’s fun and I like feeling like I can fight for myself. During the rare times that I do get to dominate or win it makes me feel strong and like a badass. If I quit I will never get better and I will never get the chance to win. It’s hard and it’s frustrating, but anything that is worth it is going to be hard and frustrating. Trust me, one day it will all be worth it. One day we will get to look back and see how far we have come and be proud of what we accomplished. One day it will be our turn to win.”
I know. It all sounds cheesy and cliché and I’m ripping off the words of wise people before me, but it’s all so true. I know Drew might not get that just yet. Right now there is nothing more valuable to him than video games and his iPhone. His instinct when it comes to challenge and hard is to quit, to take the easy road. But, someday I want them to look back and get it. I want both of my kids to experience what it feels like to work really hard through challenges and frustration and defeat and find success. To earn success.
I don’t force him to be what I want him to be. I let him choose his clothes, his hair style, his hobbies, how he spends his free time, I strongly encourage him to be his own person and to love what he loves without fear of judgement. He gets his choice to do what he wants. But, we do set our foot down when comes to BJJ. He does not have the choice of quitting. It is just not an option. Period. I’m convinced that there is nothing in this world that can teach him some of the best core human values than BJJ can.
I don’t expect all parents to agree with me on that and that’s okay. I just don’t want my kids to coast through life with everything being easy. It’s hard to watch them struggle, but it’s harder to imagine them growing up to be lazy, turds that expect everything to be easy and when it’s not, to quit. Hard work is the very core of every success story and I want them to have success stories.
Through my experience with BJJ I’m trying to show Drew that I can lose and still smile. I can lose and still learn. I can lose and still have victories. I can fight through with hard work and determination and find success.
Drew, unknowingly, has forced me to focus on the positive and to smile in defeat. I know that he’s watching me and I know that if he can see me stay positive during challenging moments, that maybe he can do the same.
When I first really noticed that he needed me to be his champion I had to 100% fake it. I was struggling with so much and I had to force myself to smile through my frustrations for him. To show him that it’s okay to fail. The saying goes, “fake it until you make it.” Well, somewhere in the process of faking it to show my kid, it just became my natural way of handling defeat and frustration. I am in such a good place right now, the strongest I’ve ever been mentally, because of Drew.
I try to make sure he knows that we are in this together, that we both struggle with the same things. On the drive home after each one of my classes I share with both of my kids how much I struggled, what I got frustrated about, and how many times I got submitted and lost. I also make sure that they hear me find the victories and I do my best to help them find their victories too.
I love that I get an opportunity to parent through something like BJJ. That we can relate, learn, and grow together. I don’t just expect them to try hard and not give up without myself understanding the true struggles and frustrations that come along. I get to show them that I myself can get out there and work hard and have fun too.
The best thing about all of this is that we have become such a closer family. I see growth in each of us that would have never been possible if hadn’t been for BJJ. I’m proud of my kids and what they have accomplished this last year and I’m confident that the growth will continue.
Drew and I may struggle and go through some really rough patches, but I know that we will fight through it together. We will struggle, but we will fight for success. We will be a champion for each other.
If you have kids, go train together as a family. Come to SFC and train with me, my husband, and my kids and many other families that train together.
It really is an amazing experience to do together.