[ed: This isn’t the kind of story we normally publish in this blog, but I enjoyed reading Anna’s distinct voice and hearing her perspective on applying Taekwondo training to parenting. It’s always interesting to hear how the experience we share, years of martial arts training, feels when applied to something I know nothing about!]
guest post by Anna Paskausky
Feeling pushed beyond what you thought you could handle? Attacked from all angles? Not sure when it will end? You are either living through a pandemic, or training for your Black Belt (or both!).
While my kicks aren’t as high as they could be, I am kicking butt at Pandemic Parenting two newborn preemies and an energetic 3 year old. Why? Because I am Il Dan. I have been pleasantly surprised to find the years of Taekwondo training coming in handy in the crossover sport of Pandemic Parenting.
Anyone who’s been a regular at the Do Jang knows that Jidokwan requires a great deal of persistence and the ability to endure discomfort. One must actively choose before each class to forgo the siren call of Netflix and beer and put on the heavy, hot cotton outfit and work out like crazy. This has helped me get up each morning at 2:30, 4:30, 7:00… rock my sweat pants and take care of two fussy newborns and a potty-training 3 year old. I’ve traded bruised forearms for an aching back from endless baby-dead lifts with bouncing, the knee aches requiring heating pads every night for the quiet torture of sleep deprivation; it’s just us with no childcare, no nanny… 3 little kids vs 2 adults.
Speaking of multiple attackers, this element of my training has proved invaluable since the odds are stacked in the offsprings’ favor with 3 kids against 2 adults. The principles are the same when dealing with multiple attackers or multiple screaming children—prevent fatal blows, line ‘em up to use their numbers against them, don’t get pinned, and STAY CALM. With the kids I call it whack-a-mole when they are kind enough to take turns and I can serially comfort them with said back-ache inducing bouncing, rocking, patting… but sometimes they ALL come at me. Then, as in sparring, I take a deep breath, ground myself into the floor, and slow it down. Is everyone safe? Yep. Pick up baby 1, unleash a combination of comfort techniques, put down. Pick up baby 2, more comfort combos, put down. Delay changing diaper on screaming preschooler—it’s just poop and most likely he’s feigning taking it off himself. Pick up baby 1 again, try something different—change the tempo, sing loudly to both, retreat in vigor of patting then suddenly dance to Missy Elliot… Jidokwan is hard and babies are soft but the principles of multiple attackers are not that different.
Lastly, despite our best laid plans, this virus has upended our lives. You may be out of work, you may have suffered illness yourself or in your family, you may be scared and alone. While the mechanics of perfecting forms or breaking boards is objectively meaningless, put into the spirit of our Jidokwan training, they lead us to “the mastery of self.” We train ourselves to reduce complicated tasks to just doing the next right thing. Whether it’s me figuring out how on earth to go back to work with no daycare without risking exposing my medically high-risk babies to coronavirus, or it’s training to do pull-ups (or potty training pull-ups) just do the next right thing. We have come to a moment as a society where the playbooks from the past don’t apply and we are each asked to forge our own paths forward.
The process of becoming Il Dan changed me, not without significant cost, but on the balance it has given me a great reserve of strength and power that transcend any physical domain. My hope is that you, my fellow practitioners, find the crossover power that Taekwondo can afford you in these most unusual times.
Respect Your Parents (Don’t visit them, listen to experts)
Friendship Among Peers (Check on your friends—everyone is suffering in their own way)
Love Widely (Stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands)
Practice Justice (Never waste a crisis… speak up now to make our world more just)