I’m penning this post at the end of a long and irritating day. What should have been a three-hour event ended up being an eight-hour ordeal.
But this story isn’t really about me. It’s about my kids.
Both of my sons train in Taekwondo. They attend classes three times per week, and they participate in extra events throughout the year. Today was one of those events.
It’s called the Masters Challenge, and it’s a competition in which students participate in specific skills. My boys chose to compete in the Traditional Form event, or the poomsae. It’s kind of a choreographed exercise of the various moves they learn (you’ll see later in this post).
Traditional Forms took place near the end of the day. That’s important to the story.
So we arrived all bright eyed and optimistic that the day would be nothing but a rewarding first experience in competing.
There were events in progress already, and between those and the afternoon session there was to be a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of the organization. No big deal.
Except the ceremony was supposed to take just over an hour.
It took two and a half hours.
And the students stood on the floor for most of the first ninety minutes of that (that’s the first pic in this post).
The boys were supposed to report to the “holding area” thirty minutes before the start of their events. Their block was supposed to start an hour before the ceremony ended (or when I thought it ended) and I wasn’t sure how quickly we needed to rush over there. So I plucked them from the group at my first opportunity and took them to that area.
Because following the ceremony was an hour of demo team performances. No competitive events would start until those were finished.
The holding area is a small theater that’s part of the auditorium. We claimed seats, and thinking they would compete soon, the boys warmed up and practiced their forms. Then we sat. And waited.
Once the demo performances were finished, the theater filled up with everyone ready to compete. It got a little warm from all the people, but no worries. We wouldn’t be in there long (20 minutes for the Traditional Forms event, they said.) So we waited.
I got snacks for them and made trips (yes, plural) to refill the parking meter.
Fast forward a couple more hours. Teams and individual competitors had been called for their turns while we waited.
Somewhere around three hours after their original scheduled time, the boys got frustrated.
Hell, so did I, but I had to put on the “Yay, it’s almost time!” face. Because it was almost time. It had to be. But because there were tears, and I wasn’t sure if it was worth sticking this out for who knows how much longer, I had to ask.
“Do you guys want to keep waiting or leave?”
My older son wiped his face and said, “I want to do my poomsae. Or all this was for nothing.”
The younger one agreed.
Another hour or so passed.
More boredom. More frustration. More tears.
I sent them out to the hall to get out of the hot theater while I listened for their names to be called.
They came back in before that happened.
“Do we still want to wait?”
They both nodded.
Finally, with my younger son snuggled up against me and the older one bouncing his legs and talking through a clenched jaw, they were called.
And hope was renewed.
I worried how well they would do after all that.
I made my way to the balcony, where spectators gathered. The boys walked with their respective groups to their rings.
And you know what happened?
They don’t look so frustrated in those last pics, do they?
As I was driving us to dinner, I tried to remember a time growing up when I went through something similar. I’m sure I had to wait a ridiculously long time for something (everybody does), but I couldn’t think of a single instance.
Maybe it was because those times were always followed by something good. Something I’d been waiting for.
Today could have gone one of two ways, one being the way it went, with the boys competing after having their patience tested.
The other is we could have left. No competition would have taken place, no scores calculated, no medals won. Something outside of their control would have beaten them.
In the words of my older son, it would have all been for nothing.
Today will be a memory for them. And I think the fact that they chose to stick it out until the end determines what kind of memory it will be. This was their first Taekwondo competition, and I suspect that instead of remembering the hours of frustrating down time, they will remember the moment they took the floor, showed their skills, and were rewarded for it.
You don’t experience a day like today without looking for a lesson in it, and I think it’s this: preparation is only part of the battle. The rest is dealing with outside forces. As long as you’ve done your job and are patient, your time will come.