That’s the mother of my children over there — she’s the one with the boxing gloves, who’s kicking the snot out of some woman I’m pretty sure she’s never met.
“Punch! Punch! PUNCH!” yells my dad-in-law, sitting in the stands behind me. I’m not sure if she hears him, but she whirls around with a spinning kick and keeps pummeling her kickboxing opponent.
We’re inside a run-down sports arena/ice rink somewhere in New Jersey for a martial arts competition I’d never heard of before a few months ago. My wife has been training for this moment for all those weeks — I can’t even count the crunches, the pushups, the hours spent working out at the dojo while I put the kids to bed after work.
Part of me wants to know what that feels like to be in that ring, to feel that prickle of adrenaline and sweat as a stranger comes at me with fists flying. I want to know how it feels to move my body with her precision, to turn myself into a weapon.
I won’t find out today. I can’t watch much of the match, let alone see my wife’s eyes or get inside her head — I’m too busy with the kids. My wife’s dad is enthralled with the fight; her mom is manning the camera; so I’m busy biting grapes in half to feed our hungry and bored 1-year-old while trying to keep our 3-year-old son from pitching headfirst off the bleachers’ safety railing, which he’s using as a jungle gym.
And that’s okay. It’s kind of fitting, really — the whole point of my wife’s time at the dojo is to reclaim a few hours each week when she can be an adult and not only a stay-at-home mom. While I take over with the kids, she can get a break from diapers and tantrums and toys strewn around the living room and just punch, kick, grapple, talk, and laugh.
I manage to glance into the ring as an official declares the end of the fight. He thrusts my wife’s gloved hand into the air in victory. And Mr. Mom over here, carrying a lovable 1-year-old bundle of drool in his arms, couldn’t be prouder.