Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Karatehood...

My son takes karate and loves it. He loves it so much, in fact, that it is the only reason I’m willing to drag my hyped up two-year-old to his class twice a week and dejectedly trail after him as he both entertains and annoys other parents attempting to watch their own children in peace. Last week, I’d made perhaps my twelfth apologetic lap through the building when I noticed several black belt hopefuls doing their usual subconscious survey of the other belts in the room. In karate, colored belts ranging from white to black and a few primary colors in between indicate hours logged, skill-level and overall expertise. Determining rank: it’s a well-documented social dance. We all do it. It’s just that in life we have access to less definitive factors when formulating a final opinion. So there I was, suddenly thankful we moms weren’t made to wear our own color-coordinated belt to indicate our level of progress as a student in the school of motherhood.

I can only imagine having to sprint through the grocery store to avoid another mom finding out that I’d been at this for six and a half years and still hadn’t made it past entry level white. Because if she did, she’d inevitably have an inner dialogue with herself to the tune of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, “No play date for you!”

Oh sure, I’ve had my moments, and I think maybe even days when I thought I’d actually move up a level, but then I end up doing something that reminds me, I’m one Britney Spears second away from failing the test. It’s not that I don’t have aspirations in that area or fear the work. I’m just too busy trying to get my kids excited about smoothies for dinner, and digging their soccer uniforms out of the dirty clothes pile so I can spray it with Super Odor Eliminator and pop it in the dryer for 15 minutes before practice. Judge me if you will, but there will come a day when you’re desperate enough to consider it.

Ironically, I seem to know quite a few black belt moms. They’re easy to spot because they’re basically those parenting magazine ad models in Technicolor. Black belt moms don’t have two-year-olds performing “the Batman smells” version of Jingle Bells in the aisles of Walmart. And I’m also pretty sure their two-year-olds don’t accidentally knock heads with a fellow classmate at their Christian-based Mom’s Day Out program and tell him he’s going to “crush” him. (Thanks honey—and by honey I mean my husband) Okay so it came out a little closer to “cuhsh him,” but I think we were all clear.

These are the ladies who have baby books to my baby boxes and perfectly timed growth interval pictures to my “he looks about six months in that one.” Essentially, these are the mothers who can bring home the FDA-approved, food pyramid groceries and sauté them up in their stainless steel, non-teflon pan. God help me if they reapply their lip-gloss before their husbands get home. Who knows? Maybe they cry into their pillows at night like the rest of us, but at least they put on a better show.

I wonder what the level-to-level progress tests would look like. Maybe somewhere between yellow and orange you’d have to master chocolate chip cookies and homemade Rice Krispy treats without looking at the recipe. Or to get from brown to red, you’d have to lead an age-appropriate craft project, cook a well-balanced meal and get in your daily workout all at the same time. I shudder to think what it would take to make it all the way up to black. If I had to guess, I’d bet it’s being able to get those pop-up play tents back into the deceiving little round discs they come in so you don’t have to shove them behind your couch and eliminate the whole reason you felt compelled to buy them in the first place.

Regardless, if we had to live in a society that forced us to wear our Mom “chops” on our sleeves, I’d probably be doomed to wear my entry-level motherhood belt for the rest of this gig, but at least everything goes with white. Come to think of it, so does black. Whatever.