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  • November 29th, 2007 | 7:05 PM
Thankful Thursday

It's still Thursday so I still have time to post a thankful thought. 

I am very thankful for some good news my son received today - he found out today that he was accepted into the impacted major of his choice at UCSC (Santa Cruz.).

I am quite sure that college acceptances are something all parents cheer about but I'm cheering especially loud. Until recently, my 28-year-old son never had any intention of going to college. But a few years ago, when he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, he had to give up a job he loved as a mechanic at a car dealership. His body was no long able to keep up the pace.

So he is starting over. 

It isn't easy for him but he knows he has to learn a new skill in order to support himself and continue to be self-sufficient. And he needs to do it right now before his body begins to give out even more.

Like any parent who is hit with the news that something is wrong with their child, I wanted to fix it for him. I wanted to make it better or make it go away. But I can't fight Muscular Dystrophy for him. He has to fight that battle on his own.

I cut my writing teeth on articles for the regional parenting publications. They were a new industry. I was a new writer. We grew up together. I had young kids and I often wrote about them. Tonight I was reminded of the first parenting article I ever sold. It was about Ryan and how determined he was fight his own battles in his own way.


"Mom, I want to quit karate."

With those few words, Ryan, my thirteen-year-old son, declared war.

For two solid years, four times a week, I had willingly driven thirty miles to the nearest karate dojo. In that short amount of time, Ryan exhibited a natural ability that quickly moved him up the ranks. He had earned the first black stripe on his Brown Belt. Only two more tests until he would have his Black Belt. And now, he wanted to quit.

The lessons had been Ryan's idea, not mine. To me, karate implied violence. To Ryan, they represented power.

"Mom, I'm a wimp. I'm tired of all the bullies picking on me. I need to learn how to defend myself."

I resisted. My excuses ranged from, "I don't want you to get hurt. You'll never practice." And that parental favorite, "We can't afford it."

I didn't give in until the day he came home with a bloody nose because of a bully who made him kiss the pavement, nose first.

Karate lessons began the very next day.

From the beginning, I sensed something special about the school. His Sensi, (teacher) did more than just teach the kids how to defend themselves against an enemy. He taught survival skills for life.

"Keep your eyes open," Sensi told them. "Be aware of what's going on around you. Set goals. Learn the skills needed to meet your goals."

Once Sensi asked a class of thirty-five kids, "How many of you consider yourselves average?" To his dismay, almost every hand went up.

"Put your hands down," he yelled. "Never, ever admit that you are average. You have within you the ability to be anything you want, as long as you're willing to work at it."

Even sitting on the sidelines, his words touched me, infusing me with a hidden strength. He made me feel like I could do anything. And as adamantly as I'd been against karate in the first place, I suddenly became its biggest advocate.

Ryan never missed a class or a test. With the rest of the students, he performed monthly demonstrations in parades, shopping malls and fairs. When special seminars came around, I always made sure he attended. I bought him books and videos, then quizzed him on the material. In my mind, the more opportunities he took advantage of, the quicker he would advance to that all-important Black Belt.

But along the way, I forgot to ask Ryan what he wanted. So I felt shocked and disappointed when he told me earning a Black Belt no longer mattered to him.

"I'm going to quit," he said. "It's no fun anymore. Baseball season starts soon and I'd rather practice baseball than karate."

"But you're so close to becoming a Black Belt," I insisted. "Why give up before you reach your goal? Haven't you listened to anything Sensi has tried to teach you?"

"Yes, Mom, I have. Sensi said anything is possible if you're not afraid of hard work. I want to play in the Major Leagues someday. That means I have to devote my time to improving my baseball skills. I'd like to try out for the High School team, and maybe play winter ball, but I need to practice hard if I hope to make the cuts."

"Couldn't you stay with karate for just one more year," I begged, still clinging to the vision of  his Black Belt.

Ryan stood his ground and shook his head. "I learned what I wanted to from karate. I know how to defend myself, even against people bigger than me. I'm not afraid of bullies or a gang with knife, because I know what to do and how to get away."

His only other comment was, "If getting a Black Belt is so important to you, Mom, maybe you're the one who should be taking karate instead of me."

His words shocked me, much like a bucket of cold water jolts your system awake. That's when I stepped back and took a good look at my son. There had been no whining. He hadn't raised his voice or lost his temper. He had come to a decision based on the goals he had set for himself. Then he presented the facts to me in a calm and grown-up manner.

No longer my little baby, but not quite a young man, Ryan had taken the first step toward adulthood by taking control of his own life. Which, I think, was exactly what Sensi wanted to teach him all along.  

Nothing's changed much in the 15 years since I wrote that. Ryan is still fighting his own battles in his own way. And I couldn't be more proud.
Way to go, Ryan.

(Tags: , )
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 38 comments — Leave comment )
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November 30th, 2007 06:21 am (UTC)
I am so impressed.

Hearty heart-congratulations
December 2nd, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
Thanks, Meg. We do struggle with our kids, don't we?
November 30th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
Congratulations to Ryan on his good news. And congratulations to both of you on his strength of character.
December 2nd, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jen. It's been a struggle and I suppose some parts of it will always be a struggle. I'm so proud of how hard he is working.
November 30th, 2007 06:43 am (UTC)
That's a lovely article, and Ryan sounds like a wonderful guy. Congrats and good luck to him on his next adventure.
December 2nd, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
Thanks! And yes, he is a wonderful guy. :-) I'd say that even if he wasn't my kid.
November 30th, 2007 06:56 am (UTC)
Congrats to Ryan == and to you, too, Mom.
December 2nd, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
November 30th, 2007 10:48 am (UTC)
Congratulations to you and Ryan. Loved the article, too. I'm going through the opposite thing with my own daughter -- I think she is staying in performing arts because she thinks I want her to be in it. I'm trying to let her know it's okay to quit if she wants, without it seeming like I'm discouraging her from doing it.
December 2nd, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's good of you to let her know it is up to her. Over the years of organized sports with the kids I saw so many parents who wouldn't do that - wouldn't let the kids be kids. It was like they were trying to live their dreams through their kids activities and some of those kids were so miserable.
November 30th, 2007 11:55 am (UTC)
I'm so proud of both of you!
This is the best post to start my morning off with. Thank you.
Please ignore all grammatical errors. It IS really early.
December 2nd, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
Yeah for good starts to mornings!
November 30th, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
Wow. What a champion! You should be proud of each other!
December 2nd, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
Aw shucks. And thanks. I am so proud of him I could, as my grandma used to say, bust a button.
November 30th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
What an amazing and inspirational story.

Way to go, mom, for raising such a wonderful son.

I'm going to go wipe away my tears now. xo.
December 2nd, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)
Thanks for cheering with us.
November 30th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
Congrats to both of you!
November 30th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
wonderful news. Congratulations!
November 30th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
Wow. I'm really moved. By your space and respect for him. By his new beginning. By the whole story. Here's wishing health and success.
December 2nd, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
Thanks, Liz. He's an amazing kid.
(Deleted comment)
December 2nd, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
Thanks. I believe he will do well too.
November 30th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
What courage your son has. And you. Changing paths at any time for any reason is hard, and doing it for a medical reason even harder.

You have an amazing son.
December 2nd, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
It is so hard, Becky. And he is so amazing for sticking with it.
November 30th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
Congrats to both of you! He's amazing. Good luck!
December 2nd, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
Thanks. He's worked hard for every bit of good luck that's come his way.
November 30th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
Huge congratulations to Ryan. And congratulations to us, your LJ readers and friends, for getting to read such a special, thought-provoking, emotion-evoking post.
December 2nd, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for your kind words.
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( 38 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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