Friday, June 17, 2011
There was a time when I was a girl that I loved pink, although I’m pretty sure that girls’ clothes weren’t so dominated by the color—it was the 70’s, after all. There also came a time that I decided it was way too “girly” a color for me. I stereotyped pink, thought of it as weak, babyish, simpering. But pink is a good color, in all its shades. It can be soft or brash, warm or cool. It makes me happy. I gradually learned that embracing femininity doesn’t make you weak, at all. When I became the mother of a girl, it suddenly became very important to be able to embrace everything that came along with being female. And my life strengthened and flooded with pink.
Pink, it turns out, is full of surprises.
Taekwon-do, for example. It was completely Middle’s idea. All three kids were influenced by way too many viewings of “Kung Fu Panda,” but she was the one who discovered the dojang downtown and convinced her big brother that this was something they needed to do. I am impressed by their interest, and by what all of us have learned since they started classes a year and a half ago. I love watching them do their patterns, I love the discipline the sport requires, and I love the mental aspect of it. Sparring, though, is just plain tough.
At her first tournament, Middle was paired up with a girl who outranked her, and with whom she had made friends while they were waiting their turn. Suddenly this friend was hitting her in the face. The match quickly dissolved into tears, and a forfeit, and more tears. At her second tournament, Middle had decided she was not going to spar. We told her that was fine—we didn’t blame her for a second. Then she changed her mind. Her first match went well and she held her own and won. The second match was a different story. Middle is not an aggressive kid. She is shy, and sensitive, and delicate. I have seen her back down in many situations in order to keep the peace, even when she was in the right. And my beautiful, delicate girl wasn’t keeping her hands up in front of her face and the girl she was sparring with was taking full advantage. I wondered what kind of mother I was, allowing my child to get beat up, whether she was wearing sparring gear or not. When she got hit in the eye, the referee stopped the match and checked her out. “Do you want to keep going?” Her shoulders heaving with sobs, she looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, sir.” And she went back in. At the end of the match, she came straight to me and I gave her a huge hug. I had to remind myself that I hadn’t forced her to come, hadn’t forced her to spar, but I still felt terrible. Then she pulled away from me and grinned. “That was fun!” The tears hadn’t even dried on her cheeks.
Don’t forget where pink comes from. Yes, it is tender—vulnerable even—but the surprise of pink is that it has red running through its veins, and its power isn’t as diluted as one might think. Pink is filled with passion and joy along with all that delicacy. The strength Middle drew on to keep fighting, to go back in and keep at it despite the difficulty—I hope she never forgets how to do that. She is my delicate, sensitive vulnerable girl, and I hope she never forgets how to be that, either. But when I think of the pain of this life, it seems good that she should learn how to fight, how to keep going, how to defend herself and the people around her. I can only hope to be half as strong as she is.