My oldest daughter is into martial arts. She is good. She's 11 and regularly the men at her gym complain that she hits too hard. They joke about how "hard" she is and regularly like to remind the person at the other end of her hits that "she's only 11, image if she was our age!"
I listen and laugh because well it is funny that they are kinda scared of her. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is just amazing and yes she is only 11. I listen and I also can't help to think about what her life will be when she is their age. Will she continue with the martial arts? If she keeps up her training she really is poised to enter the MMA ring and like be good not just get the crap kicked out of her.
But the possibilities of her MMA career really aren't today's point. I see my child working hard, hitting hard, learning to speak up and I am 1 part proud and 2 parts extremely aware of how important those skills could be in her life. Not because of a career but because of life.
She is a girl child who is Black and Mexican. As I was talking to my husband the other night, I told him, "They joke but she has to be hard." This 11-year-old child is part of 2 communities that are regularly under attack:
1/4 of the country wants to deport her (just FYI she is a US citizen)
1/4 of the country wants to kill her for the color of her skin
1/4 of the country wants to abuse/use/sexually assault her because she has a vagina
1/4 of the country is just trying to survive too so fighting the other 3/4 of the country really isn't an option
My baby has to be hard because as much as this momma wants to protect her, I know ultimately she has to walk alone. Sure I can pull her from MMA but that won't protect her from racism. Sure I can keep her from facing the gauntlet for her BJJ belts and stripes but I can't stop the looks, leers, and comments about her body. All I can do is be a soft place to land when she is hurt. I have to be open to having discussions that break my heart. I want to protect her but I can't live her life. She has to be ready for the cruelty of the world. She is Black and Mexican and has struggles I don't have any experience with but she does have a family that can see all of her wonderfulness.
So yes she leaves bruises. Yes, she wants to submit all of her opponents. And finally yes, she has all of my support in doing those things. Today those skills equal a gold medal in a tournament, tomorrow it could mean saving her life.