You just gotta do what you gotta do


From the beginning of this school year, I’ve had a story to share. I’ve been waiting for the right time. Now that the school year is complete, it’s a perfect time… My daughter, Ruby, takes classes in taiko. It’s a form of Japanese drumming done with very large drums and large sticks. It’s incredibly loud and powerful… and hence empowering. She wanted to do taiko since she was 5, when during the recital for the ballet class she was in, she saw bigger girls performing taiko. She and I both fell in love with taiko instantly, and both wanted to take lessons. But, kids had to be at least 7 years old. So she patiently waited over a year until she could sign up. With a little perseverance she qualified to get in a little before her 7th birthday, and she’s been hooked ever since. Then, after two years she wanted (and was ready) to go up to the next level. But we learned that level 2 wasn’t open to join until age 10, and at the time she was 8 (almost 9). I explained to her that it’s not just about getting to the higher level. In fact, taiko is practiced very much like a martial art; there are customs and traditions, and people of vastly different years of experience all practicing together and supporting each other. It’s about a practice, and a community. So I encouraged her to embrace whatever happens, and that whichever group she was placed in would be fine. But she wanted to try to “level up.” The skill level is better in that class and her ability had certainly advanced. So she asked her Sensei (teacher) if she could move up. The teacher said it’s out of her hands, that it’s the decision of the level 2 teacher (who Ruby didn’t know). They’d consider her, but she’d have to audition. The night before the audition she was scared. She was afraid of how she’d feel if she didn’t get in. She didn’t want to not make it, or feel embarrassed, or disappointed. She was afraid of the unknown, like we all can be at times. A new class, a new teacher, a new level, new students.

Ruby before taiko class…

We talked. I explained that the only way to get through the fear (of the unknown) is to make it known– and that requires doing it. No amount of talking about it will help. So I taught her how to be present right now, and that tomorrow she would simply do her best. When she arrived at class the next day, her level 1 teacher spotted her in the hallway and said hi. And Ruby responded (no “hi,” only), “I’m nervous.” Her teacher is a kind young woman who owns and runs the studio with her mother, she’s a talented dancer, with a strong solid beautiful body, who exudes strength and confidence, and teaches the kids the same. She sincerely pondered my daughter’s comment, and then… She shrugged and said (in an honest/real/tough love sort of way), with a bit of a silly delivery, “You just gotta do what you gotta do.” I LOVED the advice! And I appreciate people like this in my daughter’s life. The advice was real. She didn’t coddle my daughter. The teacher believed in her, and saw her having the inner strength to do it. So she gave her solid coaching, often reserved for adults. Ruby seemed unimpressed with the advice at the time. I think she wanted a magical answer. Haha. I can certainly relate. Maybe you can too. Sometimes we want a different answer. we often want an easier way. But sometimes there’s no other way, except THROUGH what it is we are afraid of.

Proud Ruby

And sometimes… “You just gotta do what you gotta do.” She did it. My daughter stepped up, was courageous, and tried out for the group. And she made it! All this year she has been practicing with the new group. She’s worked hard and even earned an invitation to another more advanced group next year… all because a teacher empowered her to step up, face her fear, and do it… As a mom I couldn’t be more proud. We learn so much from our kids. If someone who cared about your growth and progress said to you, “You just gotta do what you gotta do” – What would be that obstacle or challenge that you’d like to overcome? I’d love to hear if this story inspired you to try something new. Julie Here’s a shout out to Fredrika Keefer the Studio Manager of Dance Mission Theater (Ruby’s amazing teacher in the story), Debbie her new taiko teacher,  Natalia her teaching assistant (who is also a fellow taiko player in my taiko group), and Bruce (Mui) Ghent her teacher for taiko summer camp (who is also my taiko sensei with Maikaze Daiko).

Ruby and Freddy at Dance Mission Theater

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


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