As some of you may know, my 8 year old daughter Sapphire and I have been going to weekly karate lessons since December last year. In January we earned our 'yellow tip' belts and then the full yellow in February. A couple of weeks ago we were shoulder-tapped by the sensei and asked to do the test for the orange belt.
I was pumped: the second kata is not unlike a rather complex set of dance steps - albeit designed to shake off an attacker trying to grab your arms and getting a swift chop to the throat in retaliation. Not sure that the vienna waltz would work out too well as an accompanying soundtrack but it was thrilling to be chosen (you are not allowed to ask to be tested, your sensei decides when you are ready) and I was ready to 'dance' to the new orange tune. Nevertheless, such silly thoughts were not in my brain as I jubilantly skipped back to the carpark.
Deliberately fumbling for the keys meant that I could do a few awe inspiring 'moves' in front of the reflective car door, and Sapphire managed to pop my balloon of self-inflated pompousness by pointing out that, "Mum, we can't do the second kata test next week. I'm in the school concert."
Pffffftttttzzzzzz went the wind out of my sails (and a sly fart or two, after all it was karate and an hour of bending, lunging and high kicking is hell on the bowels after a long day paying proper attention to my fibre requirements).
"Oh. Yeah. That's right," I said as tonelessly as I could manage. "You're in a recorder group thingy, aren't you?" And then I tried to do what no parent should ever do - I tried to guilt her out of being in her own school concert: "Look, do you really need to be in it? I mean, can't Maya and Lucinda do 'Speed Bonny Boat' without you?"
Not for the first time did Sapphire's expression of hurt, disdain and utter disapproval reverse our roles - me as the selfish child and she, the towering personification of maturity, consideration and fairness. "Oh, Mum."
My apologies were brushed aside during the drive back home and she rushed inside to dob on me before I'd even finished locking up the car.
"Dad, hey D-a-a-a-a-d! Mum wants to try and get me to not to go the concert next week so that we can get our orange belts! She told me to quit the recorder so that we don't have to wait until October to get tested again!!"
Well putting it like that didn't make my actions sound too noble, so I stared down at my sneakers and tried to find a tiny shred of self-confidence - which is hard to do when you're dressed in an oversized, white canvas kimono.
"Ah, yes, I did say that, but I had only her continued progress in karate at heart...... she's done so well and is ready for the next stage and...." They both ignored me and went off to have a cuddle and a snack together before she went to bed (and also in time for Love Chunks and I to watch 'Spicks and Specks').
The next morning as we walked together to school, I was recovering from enduring a night of lectures by Love Chunks and a couple of strong coffees to help stir my senses and reawaken my maternal responsibilities. "Sorry about last night, Sapph. I am truly really *dying* to see you in concert and know that you'll be great. After all, your dad and I get to hear you practise every night after school, don't we? That silly orange belt can wait until October."
She reached for my hand - even though she could see some of her classmates - and I knew that I'd been forgiven. Of course, leave it to stupid old me to ruin our precious moment by keeping on pushing the boundaries: "Um, do you know what time you're on? Maybe I can have a chat to Miss Stevenson after her school crossing duty to put you on first and then I could stand outside with your Gi and we could roar on to the dojo straight afterwards and--"
Oh well. Perhaps the concept of orange stuck with Sapphire, or perhaps it's a clear indication of how much she overhears my conversations with Love Chunks because look what wandered up to me when I was on the phone
..... perhaps I was rewarded with a taste of orange after all.