He was certain of failure and ultimate doom. Don't we all have those moments?
It's in our mama bear DNA to rescue our cubs.
I put on the brave mom face and reassured him with a gentle smile, as we moms do when our babes are down.
Internally my stress level was busting at the seems as his nervousness doubled by the minute.
By the time we arrived at the dojo, I wasn't even certain if I could watch him test. I was afraid he was right and I didn't know if I could tolerate the discomfort of watching him freeze in front of the judges and his peers.
As parents, we're rock stars when we know our kids are in their zone. We can cheer, take pictures, and live in the moment because it's comfortable.
However, watching our children in discomfort is painful. Whether it's holding down an infant for a shot or watching a painfully shy little perform in a class play; those moments bring out parents' fears and anxieties like none other.
Luke's turn finally arrived towards the end of the testing event. He stood in front of a packed room and performed his katas without error. He nailed it. When he finished and took his final bow facing the judges, I could feel my anxieties melt away.
The students all got in their places and finished with a horse stance while the judges placed a new belt behind each of them. Some kids had tears streaming down their little cheeks while others shook through the pain. I watched Luke grimace while he obediently held his stance. Meanwhile, I had to control every urge to beg Sensei to let them sit and rest.
But, I sat.
And watched my sweet boy struggle.
Eventually I saw Sensei put two belts behind Luke, which is unusual. In fact, I've never seen him do that at any of our testing events. As the helpers walked around, they asked Sensei why there were two belts, but each time Sensei would just put his hand up to them and nod, as if say, "I got this."
Once the boys finally sat, with their eyes still shut, they were told to look behind them. Luke turned and stared at his two belts in confusion. All the other children started to put on their new belts in excitement and I could tell that Luke's anxiety was building as he continued to stare at the two belts.
Sensei approached Luke and sat down with him. I saw him whispering to Luke and Luke looking at him carefully as he spoke.
As I silently edged my way closer, I could hear Sensei telling Luke that he had two options:
1. Pick the next level belt color.
2. Pick the belt that is two levels higher, but be willing to work extremely hard at the new katas.
Finally, he told Luke he believed in him and told Luke to grab a belt.
Luke hesitated and then grabbed the next level belt.
His self doubt got the best of him, but Sensei knew better and gently guided Luke to put the belt back down and encouraged him to reach back again and pick up the more difficult level belt.
Sensei didn't waiver. He believed in Luke. He knew he could choose the hard way and succeed.
Luke just needed that voice to tell him that he was capable and ready. He needed that reassurance that he was ready for the challenge when he didn't believe it himself.
Don't we all need someone like Sensei in our moments of self doubt? More so, how can we be like Sensei to those around us. Who can you say, "I believe in you" today? Don't wait. Four simple words can make a difference.
And most importantly, to my Luke:
I believe in you. Forever and always.