Karate white belt. This is for beginners who have not yet achieved a rank.

Sometimes as a parent, you get so involved in the nitty-gritty everyday, that the big picture is lost in the pixels. Then a random moment sweeps over you, and you see things from the distance for the first time in a long time.

In those moments, you can see how far you’ve come, how you’ve gotten older and wiser, how your children have grown, and how all the nitty-gritty, messy, sticky everyday battles weren’t in vain. I had a moment like this recently. I wasn’t expecting it. It came out of the blue like a thunderstorm on a muggy summer afternoon.

My daughter has recently joined my son at his karate class. I bought a new dogi (karate uniform) for him. The old one was too small, and now Sister would need it.

Brother’s needed taking in. He tried it on and he seemed so big in the grown up, crisp, white  uniform.

He stood up straight and tall and proud, and for a moment I thought I caught a glimpse of the man he is becoming. I felt both proud and sad for the little boy, who terrorized me for sure, but who I’m already starting to miss.

Then Sister tried on Brother’s old uniform. It had been a long time since I tied a white belt, and I was surprised by how tender and reminiscent it made me feel. The white belt is still much too long and has to be wound around her still slightly rounded baby tummy an extra time. There is plenty of room to grow.

The Japanese have a great word for this longing, tender feeling one gets when reminded of the past: natsukashi. It is often said with a sigh, bitter and sad and sweet, like all the best memories tend to be.

I sat back on my heels and inhaled the scent of them, excited about the milestone the new uniforms represented, about the boundless possibilities and potential their little bodies possess.

And we were happy together at how far we’ve come. Though I am mindful of the thorny road ahead, which increasingly they must walk alone.

When are some unexpected times you’ve felt that your children have grown and matured? How has that made you feel?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from mother of two in Japan, Melanie Oda. You also can find Melanie writing on her personal blog, Hamakko Mommy.

Photo credit to the author.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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