On getting up and trying again
perseverance [ˌpɜːsɪˈvɪərəns] n 1. continued steady belief or efforts, withstanding discouragement or difficulty; persistence
The Boy has wanted to attend Karate since he was five. Until this year, I was unable to find a dojo close enough to us, at a time that was convenient. Tonight, we went to a class to try it out.
Before we left, he was extremely excited. He pulled out his Lego Ninjago headband and tied it around his head and was making karate kicks and chops until we got to the car. When we arrived, he was still ready to go. A bit nervous when he saw there were adults and children in the class, but good again when his friend Terry (not his real name) appeared.
The Sensai invited him to take part in the warmup, found him a place in the line, and gave an opening speech about the beginning of term and the importance of competition. And then they began.
My boy gave it a good go. He copied the other trainees as they went, but his face was falling closer and closer to the floor as they went. At the completion of a series of moves (in which my Boy got completely lost), he burst into tears, climbed into my lap, and announced that Karate wasn’t for him, he wanted to go home, and he didn’t like it at all.
I cuddled him and said “The Sensai isn’t expecting you to do the moves perfectly. He expects you to give it a go, watch the others, and try your best. All these other kids and adults have been doing this much longer than you, so they’ve had more practice.”
But still he wept and insisted he wouldn’t go back.
I gave him a minute, and then tried again.
“If we go home after only five minutes, you won’t feel good about it at all. When Dad comes home and asks you about it, you’ll have to explain that we left, and I know that will make you feel sad. But if you try again, you’ll know in yourself that you picked yourself off and gave it an honest go.”
But still, nothing.
The Sensai came up to ask what was the matter. “He’s sad because he couldn’t keep up,” I said. The Sensai gave him a friendly smile. “Mate! You don’t have to keep up! I know you don’t know all the moves yet. Why don’t you try again?”
The Boy buried his head. I decided to leave it for another moment.
Then the Sensai announced it was time to do some kicks. All the other trainees went and got some pads to use. This interested The Boy enough to encourage him to try again. And he did. He wiped his tears, grabbed a pad, and walked back onto the mat.
And the wonderful Sensai took my Boy as his partner, and got him to do some kicks and punches that put a smile on my Boy’s face. He showed him where to hold his arms and fists, and how to stand.
For the rest of the class, even though my Boy kept getting lost as they did their move sequences, he didn’t stop trying. He was brave enough to say to the Sensai (after the Sensai told the rest they would do the next sequence with their eyes shut) “But not me, aye, because I’m still learning,” to which of course the Sensai agreed.
By the end of the class, there were stars in his eyes and an eagerness in his face. “I want to come back on Friday, and I want the white uniform and the belt!”
I’m convinced that perseverance isn’t innate, that it has to be learned. That we have to see our role models get up and try again, and we need others to encourage and support us to get up and try again.
I suspect every one of us has a moment or event in time that they wish they could go back to, and get up and try again. What was missing for us at that time? Why didn’t we get up and try?
Was it because we hadn’t learned perseverance yet? Or because we had no support?
For the moment in time that I remember, I didn’t keep trying because I was looking for reassurance from the event leaders. Reassurance that never came.
So now one of my goals is to endeavour to provide that support and reassurance for people who need it. I’m not perfect, and I might miss some along the way. But I’ll do my best, pick myself up, and keep trying.
And enjoy watching my Boy learn Karate.