Mina sings in a "Spring Sing" at school today. When she practiced last night, Maya and I were in tears as Mina belted out songs from the song sheet. With no accompaniment and little recollection of the exact tune, she sings like Joe Piscopo singing Frank Sinatra. She yells out "If I had a ham-mer . .. " and hammer is half spoken in a flat tone; the "mer" part heading south. She should do solos on a barstool with a cigarette and a hand-held microphone. It was the funniest thing I've heard in a long time.
We were away for the weekend for a Taekwondo tournament. After a three hour drive, we stayed in a clean, cheap hotel in Fresno which could've been Anywhere in the US. Husband, me, Maya, Mina and the pugs all crammed in my Honda, all stuffed in the hotel room. We like it that way. And BD and Sanne with Baby R were next door. Sanne's parents the floor under ours. The night before the competition, just as I fell off to sleep around midnight, I heard the faint horn of a train. It got closer until it seemed just a block away and continued to blow as it passed out of earshot. I thought, Whoa. The trains came every 20 minutes for the remainder of the night. By dawn, it was almost old hat. The girls didn't stir, but when we asked Maya if she heard the trains during the night, she said, "Only about fifty." Mina didn't hear a thing. Neither did the pugs.
Maya's fighting in a new weight class now. This was her first tournament at this weight, and this is when the competition separates girls with natural athletic ability from athletes with serious potential. Maya's conditioning is the best it has been; her cardio is on point and she doesn't gasp after the second round now. Husband said, "She has a fighter's bob," something that didn't come so naturally before, but now, suddenly, it's there. There were eleven girls in her category which is a ton and every one of them looked fierce. Maya had a bi the first round and faced a very good counter scorer in the second: For every point that Maya scored, the girl scored one right back. The girl managed to ring Maya's bell by kicking her in the face. This stopped the fight for a minute and today she has a nice toe-shaped black bruise on her chin. Maya ended up losing the match with a score of 8 points to 7. Her opponent scored the winning point exactly as the last second clicked off the clock. It was heartbreaking. Sometimes it's hard for Maya to see the big picture, that every tournament she gets better; that she's still an amazing athlete even if she's not raking in the medals. This doesn't matter because to see your child give her all and take hits on the chin and stand firm and fight on, man, you gotta know that she's brave. You gotta know that she's won a lot already. Maya's all or nothing -- she wants gold now --, but when we sooth her after losses, we can convince her that she's on the right path, that she's doing so great. With a bruised face and through red eyes still glinted by hope, she nods that she wants to go on.
It can be a weird thing sending your baby out to fight. The object is to be tactical and tough, to score with strategy and strength, but sometimes they get hurt. This tournament, I saw three kids get knocked out cold, despite the head gear, including a twelve year old teammate of Maya's. The teammate was losing her match decisively. In the last round her opponent threw a head kick that landed harder than she intended and our girl went down, face to the mat. Out. The opponent was disqualified because knock outs aren't allowed until they're 14. We watched anxiously until our teammate got up, wobbly but ok. She placed silver. As a parent, you ride a razor's edge of wanting to protect them from everything, but you know that despite the risk of injury they are learning amazing things about themselves out there. If Maya loves it still, then I love it still and I'll watch all her matches at the edge of my seat, sweating, and sometimes through the fingers that are covering my face.