Sign the Waiver
“It’s an inter-school taekwondo tournament, Mom! Not mortal combat.”
“Oh, thank God! I thought it was a no-holds-barred tournament. I’m worried because you don’t have a brother to avenge you in the ring in case you get injured.” I poured the chocolate batter from a bowl into a square pan.
Lloyd, my twelve-year-old son chuckled but continued pleading, “Mom, just sign the waiver, please… Dad would sign this if he were here.” He poised to dip a finger in the pan.
I tapped the finger and it retreated. “Then wait for him to come home.”
“Next week? I need this tomorrow.”
“I won’t sign. You might get injured or lose…”
“I won’t be injured. ” He was licking the spoon as he followed me to the oven. “And I don’t care if I lose. I just want to be part of a tournament. All of us in the class want to be in a tournament.”
“Why?” I took the spoon from him.
“For experience! When we grow up, we could say we were in a real tournament.”
“School to school tournament, Mom.” He rolled his eyes. “I will fight with another green-belter. Please sign this…” He laid the paper on the table and gave me a pen.
He was wearing me down and I needed to sit. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I wiped a hand on my apron and took his pen.
“Yes, Mom!” He raised a knee and his fists poised at chest level.
I ignored the combat stance. “Promise me you won’t get injured… no injuries, no blood.”
“Promise, Mom. No injuries, no blood.” He snapped his leg and missed my head by an inch.
“I said no injuries… and that includes me.”
“He-he… sorry, Mom.”
To Watch or Not to Watch
A day before the tournament, Lloyd asked, “Are you going to watch?” He was kicking the air.
“Oh, I don’t know…” I kept my distance.
“But I want you to see me kick butts.”
“I'm more worried about your butt."
“Mommy!” From that one word, I gathered he was asking why I had no confidence in him and why I wouldn’t support something he loved to do.
“Alright, I will go and watch.”
A Mother's Nightmare
The tournament was every mother’s nightmare, unless she was the mother of that boy who must have thought my son’s face was his personal punching bag to kick at will.
The combatants came out with complete protective gears and I thought I worried needlessly. Lloyd was bigger and taller than that dastardly boy who turned out to be a two-time taekwondo regional champion. But in that tournament, height and build did not matter. What mattered was how a combatant used his leg power to disable his opponent.
After the referee signaled the beginning of the fight, the pair bowed to the judges and to each other. Just as Lloyd got into a fighting stance, his opponent landed a foot on his chest.
I froze while that boy unleashed three successive kicks on Lloyd’s chest to force him out of the mat but my son did not budge. He stood his ground blocking the powerful kicks with his protected hands and arms. I winced at the impact of each blow.
Once, Lloyd took a step back but he quickly recovered and stayed on that God-forsaken mat to continue to fight an opponent who unceremoniously aimed his foot higher. The first one hit Lloyd dead on his face and blood dripped from his nose.
I gasped at the sight of blood. Lloyd sidestepped the incoming kicks but another one hit his mouth and his lips broke. I wanted to scream, I wanted to swear at the boy who was hurting my son, I wanted to end the fight but all I managed was an agonized groan drowned by the spectator’s racket.
I sat petrified on the bleachers watching Lloyd’s bleeding face, debating whether I should go and murder that foot-wielding boy or let my son bleed with dignity. Suddenly, Lloyd let out a series of powerful footwork which sent his opponent reeling but the champ returned with a side kick that hit Lloyd’s head. In spite of the headgear, my son staggered while his opponent hovered around with his foot ready to snap again.
Lloyd struggled to steady himself. “God, please stop this fight,” I prayed because I knew from the grim determination on his face, my boy would never quit. Then I saw a white towel tossed on the mat. His coach came to his rescue. It was over. His opponent’s hand was raised in victory while Lloyd was led away.
My son lost but I saw the pride on his bleeding face as he stepped off the mat. It was then that I realized my son was growing up. He did not need me to fight his battles for him.
His coach apologized for the mismatch. A teammate who was supposed to fight the champion got scared and switched his name with Lloyd's.
“Lloyd gave a good fight. If he fought with his own level, he would surely win,” the coach said.
I came home and cried. I cried because it tortured me to watch helplessly while my son was hurting and bleeding. I cried because my boy was growing up fast and soon he would no longer be my little boy.
Make My Mommy Proud
That night, Lloyd was in a pensive mood. “I won’t join tournaments anymore,” he said through a fat lip.
My heart bled. He must have been really hurt. “You should have given up before that blow landed on your face.”
"No way... I could take his kicks. You saw me... I was good." He grinned forgetting his cracked lips, then winced.
I sighed at his discomfort. “But you were hurt…”
“Yeah, it was terrible.” He grimaced at the thought. “But I was more worried about you…”
“I got injured. You will get mad and you will worry… I don’t want you to worry…” He said awkwardly, then added seriously, “No more tournaments for me.” He pressed an ice bag to his lips and to his nose.
“So why did you not quit? You knew you were going to lose…”
“Yeah… but if I cannot win, I wanted to keep standing as long as it takes. No one else lasted as long as I did with that champion. All his opponents were out of the mat in seconds.” He was filled with pride. “I wanted you to be proud of me, Mom…”
“I am so proud of you,” I said hugging him, “though I almost ran up there to kick that boy’s butt.”
“Mom…” he disengaged from me, “my team and my coach were proud of me today. I lost the fight but they said for them I was a winner. If you ran up there, I would have been a total loser.” He made a funny face after his emphatic speech and I burst out laughing.
“A total loser with a swollen face,” I teased as I hugged him back.
He wriggled in my arms and giggled while trying not to stretch his lips. He was still my little boy.
© 2015 Virgo908