The Mom Belt System

After spending the past few months watching my children learn Jiu Jitsu, I have begun to realize the sport of MOTHERING has it’s belt system too.

Mothering is a really tough sport. Whether you are a full-time mom or a super-full-time mom, it is ROUGH. It is a rewarding and heartbreaking sport though. There are many highs, lows and lessons learned that you would never have imagined. My children are ages 5 and 7, and are both obsessed with Jiu Jitsu. As I have watched them at practice, day after day, I have started to think about how the sport of mothering is much like the sport of Jiu Jitsu. There are different belt colors: White, Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. The kids have a whole different set of colors, but for parenting purposes, I’m focusing on the adult belt system. It starts with the white belt. 

The WHITE belt is ALL about survival. You need to make it through the round without getting your ass kicked and hopefully learning a few new techniques and strategies that will make you look semi-good (if you tilt your head and squint in a dark room). That is the birth-5 year-old parents in my opinion. They are learning the sport of mothering. They have transitioned from a fun-filled life to having responsibilities, but it is still new, exciting and terrifying to them. You have enough skill and talent to keep your kids alive, but the amount of knowledge you still do not know is almost impossible to imagine at this point. You are constantly getting schooled about what to do and what not to do. You win some battles, but most of the time, you feel as though you are caught somewhere between an arm bar and a choke-hold. You look up at that clock more than you should and try to hold on as best as you can until it is bedtime or even that five minutes rest you can squeeze in between matches. It is exhausting and your entire body and mind hurts all the time, but as time goes on, you adapt. You learn. You adjust. Then, somewhere in the chaos, you graduate to a blue belt.

The BLUE belt. The blue belt mother has the fundamentals of the “sport” down. They know what the moves are but still are in an experimental mode. Yes, at this age, blue-belt mothers experiment. A LOT. They test out different sports, adventures, classes, techniques, toys, foods, bribes, pretty much everything you can thing of. There are self-help books, mothering books, cooking books, and random inspirational books littering their counters or Kindles (most of them only skimmed through). They are trying to figure out what path they can take that will lead them to the most success in their game. The hone in on that special skill that they take to a match in hopes for the right moment to shine and conquer. Blue belt mothers are constantly on social media or engaging with other mothers looking for praise, support, or the feeling of normalcy. They are constantly seeking the latest and greatest way to give their child that edge on life that they need at this level. They are finally starting to win some of their matches, while still being surprised on almost a daily basis of things they have never seen before. The blue belt is rewarding and inspiring, but at the same time still full of humility and defeat. This belt is usually in the 4-10 year old mothering age-range. Once they have a set standard of what works and doesn’t, moms get promoted to a purple belt. 

The PURPLE belt. I think of this belt as the tween belt. It is for the mothers who have children progressing into the teenage years. The hormonal years. This is where the real mentoring of the sport begins. They are still working on their own techniques, which the kids will certainly test on a daily basis. However, for then most part, their mothering-style will be set quite well. They will continuously reinforce the basic lessons of life and technique, style, and grace with their children. They will start reaching out to those around them and give them advice (wanted or unwanted) on what they are doing right or wrong and ways they can improve their mothering game. They are gearing up for that age where they can refine their own certain skills and prepare for the future. Their children should already understand the basic concept of this world. Even if this mom has new babies at this time, she is confident in her abilities to raise the child they way she sees fit. Once the purple belt is “mastered”, we move to the brown belt. 

The BROWN belt is reserved for the mom of teenagers, specifically ones that are close to being ready to leave their care and move out on their own. She has endured countless hours of no-sleep, stressful days and nights, numerous teacher meetings, more flash-card than she wants to admit, and at least a handful of days where she was left with no-voice, due to whatever circumstances (we don’t judge). These moms have been there. Done that. And SURVIVED! They are just putting the final touches on their children; grooming them to go off and be adults. They are preparing themselves for what the world has to offer. Hoping that their journey as parents is as fulfilling as their progression through the ranks was. It is not an easy time for a brown-belt parent, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is a rewarding one (so I believe is the case). When that child finally moves out of the house, the mom graduates to a full-on black belt. She has made it to the top. Her children are out of the house, successful, and maybe even starting a parenting jiu-jitsu journey of their own. 

The BLACK belt. After many years, sleepless nights, all-out battles with the children, devotion like no other and undying love for the sport of mothering, one may reach her blackbelt. It is when a mom has made it through the trials and tribulations of parenting. She has felt on top of the world, yet at the same time feared the judging eyes of everyone around her (whether or not they even existed). She raised, trained, and mentored a (or multiple) human being from a helpless creature to an adult. It is a magnificent time. She is a mentor. A leader. A coach. She has made many mistakes along the way but came out on the other end a winner because she never gave up. She is there to give advice to her students when needed. She is there to watch them make their own mistakes, because that is how they must learn. She is there to guide and cherish them, but to also let them fail if they have to. Hopefully, her children will not believe they are too good that they don’t have to reach to her for advice and guidance, but it is only a natural part of the belt progression where the white belts and even blue belts will think they are all-knowing and need to learn the hard way that some of their techniques simply do not work. It takes a strong black belt to foster the lower-belt mom’s confidence and knowledge but respect the fact that they must make their own choices in their fights. They must determine what path they take. Because that is the only way they can grow. In my opinion, the black belt is the hardest role as a mother. It is having the ability to let your children make their own choices, their own mistakes, and their own successes, while still being there to support them in the process. 

I currently am a blue belt in this sport of mothering. My kids are young, but I have survived the first phase of their lives. I am learning everyday on how to raise them correctly while still trying to get over the constant feeling on inadequacy and failure. I am trying not to take comments and social media personally, while making my own opinions on how my children should interact with this world. I am trying new things all the time and read way too many “how to make sure your children are successful” articles. I make mistakes by the dozen and feel like I tap out to my self-doubt more than I should. I hope as I earn my higher mom-belts, I will be able to look back and say I did a good job or at least I did the best I could do on any given day and any given match. 

Being a mom is a rough job. It doesn’t get easier either. I just hope that someday, I can make my coaches proud of the journey I have accomplished and the lessons I have survived. As I look towards the future, I also hope that one day, I will be at least half the black belt as the ones I look up to and have guided me through this crazy journey of Jiu-Jitsu mothering. 

 

Life Lessons: Learning to Ride a Bike

There are no lessons quite like the ones that you learn when you first ride a bike.

There are many lessons we learn throughout our life. Some of these lessons we learn the hard way: why it is not advisable to touch a hot stove. Others, we learn through watching our friends, family members or complete strangers. Then there are some that we have to live through. Experience so we can truly grasp their meaning and the lesson that is associated with it. We have all had our hearts broken but in that process, we learned to love, trust, understand, listen, and learn. However, with all the lessons we learn throughout our life, none are as important as that day when we learned how to ride a bike.

As I ran countless laps up and down the street today, pacing next to my daughter as her lime and fusha bike wobbled over the pavement, the memories of my first bike roared back. Nearly thirty years ago, my sister was the one next to me, holding onto my pink banana-seat bike telling me what to do, encouraging me along the way and also letting me experience what it felt like to meet the old dirt road we lived on. There were so many things to do and for someone so little, it was overwhelmingly scary, but empowering. The trust I gave her to keep me safe and to teach me how to ride this machine was more than I ever would give her again but you have to take that risk sometimes. In a few short hours, I went from completely relying on her to having freedom like never before. This machine could take me anywhere I wanted to go and all I had to do was peddle. That day, I was unstoppable. It is a day I hope to hold onto for the rest of my years.

Looking through a mother’s eyes, the same experience is quite different. My son had mastered the skill within a short day but my daughter has been a bit more reluctant. Her fears of me letting go overpower her actual skills that she is able to go for stretches without needing my assistance. Her eyes light up as we go together, but anxiety hits when she thinks that she is alone in this journey. As a mom, I don’t want to ever let her go. I want to relish in the fact that she needs me, even though the cold hard truth is that she doesn’t. She has the skills to ride the bike on her own, she just wants me there for that safety net; the one to grab her off the bike before she meets the road. Teaching her how to ride a bike is also teaching me how to let go. My baby is no longer a baby. She is growing into a strong, independent girl and one day I will have to let her go live her life as she deems to live it. I know I will always be there with the bandaids when she loses control, or maybe even a bottle of wine later on when she feels like her whole life crashed, but today I have learned that sometimes it is best to let them go.

As a kid, there are many lessons you learn as you master the skill of riding a bike: trust, independence, hazard avoidance, risk assessment, perseverance, and self-aid. As an adult it changes: acceptance, patience, when to hold on and when to let go, and first-aid. The moment my kids rode away from me for the first time is probably more heartwarming than the moment I rode away from my sister so many years ago. Because in that moment, I knew that no matter how many times they may fall, they now know how to get back up and ride again. All you have to do is keep peddling and you will be ok.