I watched The Karate Kid this summer. By myself. I was in a hotel and it came on TV and I thought, what the heck, let’s watch this. So I did.
For anyone growing up with that movie, watching it as an adult is no less thrilling than the first time seeing it. Remembering scenes or character mannerisms that struck me when I was 7, strike me now 30 years later. The way Daniel bangs the apartment building wall after he gets jumped, “I hate it here, Ma! I hate it here! Why can’t we just move home?!” Or the way Ali mauls Daniel with her locks of hair as she grabs his neck after his tournament victory. Or the way Daniel’s mom was always so…happy.
I remember watching her as a kid, knowing I knew nothing about single mothers of boys, but being fascinated with her. There was something about her I admired. Her strength. I understood it even as a child. I don’t know why. I knew no single moms at 7. The only moms I knew were ones who were married. The single moms were always gone, I guess working or something. So I never really had any kind of relationship with a single mom until I was out of college. But before that, even as a small child, when I’d see them in film or on TV, they fascinated me. Lily Tomlin in 9-5? I was mesmerized with her. And it wasn’t the divorced moms. It wasn’t the moms co-parenting. It was the single moms who were completely single. No boyfriend, no ex laying around somewhere. Single. On their own. With no help from a man. Why did I find these women strong? I don’t know. But I did.
I watched The Karate Kid again last night. But this time not alone. This time with my 8 year old son, about the age I was when I first saw the movie. And as I remembered my 6 and 3 year old brothers kicking each other in the backyard and signing up for Tae Kwon Do class after they saw the movie, I sat there and watched my boy do the same last night. Fully engrossed, exclaiming that yes! he’d like me to sign him up for Karate class.
And I cried as now the strength I so admired in Ms. LaRusso I find I must exhibit now in my real life. I am more like her than I ever imagined. Moving across the country with just my son. No mention of Dad anywhere. I remember being puzzled why she was so happy – she was poor and on her own, but somehow she was happy. And that happiness struck me as a child. It stayed with me. And it strikes me now. I admire her strength and the happy hope she carried. I want that. I want that sunny outlook on life. That never-gonna-get-me-down attitude. It was beautiful. I noticed it then. I notice it now.
I wonder if my fascination with single moms in the movies was an omen for my own life. I never imagined in a million years I’d be a single mom. It is quite the opposite of what I imagined for my life. I knew I wanted to get married, but I never daydreamed of kids. Ever. Like ever. Like I’m not exaggerating. I never imagined me pregnant or holding a toddler or driving kids to baseball practice. That thought never entered my mind. Not once. I daydreamed of getting married and having a husband and growing old together, but never in my 30 years before I actually got pregnant did I ever even have a flashing image of having children. Only marriage. And I never contemplated divorce. I knew I’d never get divorced. I was gonna marry for life and I was gonna marry a Christian, and if I was lucky enough to find a Godly man who loved me, that was that – my life was set. Happiness achieved. And now here I am, having been married, newly divorced, and with a child. I am a single mom.
How did I get here?
I often think God gives us the children we never expected to have to teach us growth. I meet so many macho dads that despite their trying, never gain a son. Instead they have five princesses to take care of. I see girly moms sigh as their two boys have it out for the third time that afternoon and look wistfully at their neighbor’s daughter coloring quietly. I see adults who want babies so bad never get them and kids who never want them get pregnant out of wedlock. Why does God give us exactly the opposite of what we want? I don’t know. Part of me thinks it’s cruelty, but the other part knows He’s good. And that He has His reasons.