Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Smart Mama: Kung Fu Mama


“Remember to say, ‘Yes, sir,’” Benny, my 4-year-old, told me. “And bow, like this.” He bobbed, almost falling on his head.

“Got it,” I told him as I tightened my belt.

“Kung Fu Mama,” he giggled.

We walked into Dover Dragons, the Tae Kwon Do studio where my 7-year-old daughter, Emma, has been taking classes for about two years.

Now, it’s a family affair. My husband, Jon, signed up for adult classes a month ago, and just before that, Benny became a Lil’ Dragon.

I saw Emma’s confidence soar with each new belt she earned. My little princess could break wood with a single kick. She knew how to defend herself, and understood when it was appropriate to do so.

I saw joy personified as Benny sprinted across the mat. Of course, he fell over a moment later, but I have hope future classes might help with coordination.

I saw that Jon’s classes brought the word “workout” to a whole new level. Kicks, punches, yoga-like stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, sprinting and more. It’s intense.

And I was no longer content to sit on the bench.

“Remember,” Emma told me, “just do your best. Everyone will help you. Don’t be scared.”

“Got it,” I told her, smiling at how similar this was to my pep talk to her when she started. I remembered her flushed face and jumbled nerves. Now, my stomach was clenching.

Doubt flooded me. What was I doing here? I’ve never been athletic. Never been one to join in a sport. I almost turned around.

But then I saw Benny smiling at me from the bench. Jon already was on the mat. And Emma was beside me.

“Ready, Mama?” Emma asked. This was a Saturday family lesson, so we would take this class together. She grinned again, and I knew she loved being the one who knew what to do. I could see that she was proud of me, too.

So I swallowed my nerves, bowed with my daughter, stepped onto the mat, and practiced what I preached.

Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 7, and son, Benny, 4.

From our Facebook fan page

What we posted: Think back: What was the best gift you got as a child, the one that kept you up all night with your fingers crossed that Santa (or Mom and Dad) got the message?

What you posted:

Erica Hamilton: Rub-a-Dub Dolly! I was so bummed when Santa didn’t bring it. Then my grandma came over later in the day and brought it! There’s a picture of me with my mouth wide open in happy surprise!

Alexandra Knaub: There were these dolls that, when you made their cheek wet, showed a kiss. When you opened the box there was the possibility that a note would be in there telling you that your doll had a twin. I wanted the doll AND a twin so bad and thought I would die when I found her under the wrapping paper and then saw the twin card!!

Kathleen Cunningham Smith: April Showers! She was a doll that came with her own tub/shower and you could use real water. Then, of course, she would go to the bathroom and you had to change her diaper. Oh, and a play kitchen!

Megan Erickson: Easy Bake Oven! LOVED that thing!! It seriously made awesome chocolate cake.

Michelle Beck: My Cabbage Patch babies. They were always my favorite, but I also looked forward to all of my Rainbow Brite stuff, too.

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