The dinner table was a vibrant, entertaining, and educational experience in the Meredith household where I grew up. Of all the things I learned, one of the most important was, nobody eats until Mom sits down. It was OK to butter the potatoes, dress the salad, or even cut off the first bite of meat, but nobody ate until Mom sat down.
In Martial Arts we see this concept exhibited a number of ways. First, at the beginning and end of class when everybody sits to meditate, the junior belts are asked to wait to sit down until after the senior belts. This often looks like a domino effect as the highest ranking Black Belts sit first, followed by the less-senior Black Belts, then the Red Belts, the Green Belts, Orange, Yellow, and lastly the White Belts.
This is not a subservience play. This is not about control or dominance. It's a simple matter of having respect for the people in the room who have the most to do.
Let's say a Black Belt is paired up with a Green Belt for sparring drills. Which one probably has the better control, the faster technique, or the more powerful strike? While it is true that the Green Belt has to work hard, it is the Black Belt who has to temper his strikes, reduce his attack tool-set, and cushion his blocks, all the while monitoring the Green Belt's actions to find points of improvement, elements of progress, and (and this is often overlooked) keep both artists safe.
I remember rolling on the floor with my six month old grandsons, rocking back and forth gently, yet playfully wrestling. He loved it and giggled and smiled the whole time. Which of the two of us had to work? It was playtime for him; for me it was an exercise in control, balance, and above all, protection.
Waiting for Mom seemed like the right thing to do, after all she started working before us, she had the most to do, and it didn't hurt us one bit to give her a chance to go first. Learning to let someone else go first is a lesson that tends to stay with you and there's no downside to practicing patience.