People think that Bruce Lee’s famous “Be like water” quote was his philosophical view on fighting an opponent. Think again! I propose that he was actually talking about being a parent! Ah HA! Okay, so maybe your mind isn’t blown by this revelation, but it’s got to at least be making funny clanking noises, right?
Let’s take look at his words of wisdom (in large text), with my words of wisdumb (in small text) as commentary.
- “Be like water making its way through cracks.
(It’s obvious he’s telling us parents always need to be versatile and adaptive to get anything done; like opening a safety gate with only one hand, removing rogue wads of gum from everything or getting a spoon past the tight lips of a child.)
Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it.
(You see!?! He’s saying a smart mom or dad, with the desire to maintain their sanity, quickly learns that kids will often absolutely not budge if you order them to do something and they will speedily dive right into what you forbid them to do. If a parent wants to go with the child’s flow to get anywhere, they might let the little tike know that the sooner they’re in the car, the sooner they’ll be at the park, that sort of thing.)
If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
(It’s clear he’s saying to take a break from insisting a kid do (or stop doing) something and you’ll see, in them, the way. Because basically kids are as transparent as sandwich baggies and, even when they’re trying to be sly, it’s obvious when it’s bologna.)
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water.
(Okay now, I’m not sure if he’s suggesting you should be open and willing to change your mind or if he’s describing what will happen to your mind and body once you have a kid. Or both.)
If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
(All very zen and such, but also a very strong indication of Mr. Lee’s parental sleep deprivation or his preoccupation with play-dough, baby bottles and hot caffeinated beverages. Duh!)
Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
(Sometimes I feel like raising my kid is like being swept down a fast moving river and sometimes it’s like drowning below crushing waves. Come on now! If this isn’t clearly about raising a child then I don’t know anything about martial arts! Wait that came out wrong. Anyway, I like how he ended it with “friend,” it sorta has the same feel as one of those wide-eyed nods we parents exchange with each other at grocery stores.)
—Bruce Lee, Martial Arts Expert and Father
How could anyone have ever thought this was about martial arts when it’s so clearly about winning (or at least surviving) at parenting.
Maybe it’s the conflicting approaches to the same goal, making it seem like a fight. We want to help our kids become happy, healthy and capable people. And kids don’t want to be sad, sick or dumb and clumsy, even if it seems there’s endless evidence to the contrary.
Your kid may consider the thing that will make him happiest is to run with untied shoelaces, scissors in hand, up the down-escalator, in the rain with no jacket. You may not be such a fan of this.
Naked vs not naked. Playing vs eating. Desert vs cleaning your plate. You’ve each got different ideas. It often turns into a battle.
Parent like water.
(P.S. Just imagine getting tickled by Bruce friggin’ Lee! That is all, please carry on.)
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