Over the past six months, we’ve been tossing around the idea of extracurricular activities. (A phrase that means absolutely nothing since life is our curriculum and what could possibly be classified as “outside of life”…) But I digress. We have asked Daniel what kinds of activities he’d enjoy and he kept circling around the concept of martial arts. A few where-does-your-kid-take-karate conversations later, we found a great little dojo close to our home that offers tae kwon do classes to young kids.
Daniel said he’d like to try and didn’t bat an eye as we did our best to prepare him for a tougher-than-usual Sensei. His first class was in March, and he marched right with a big smile on his face… for the first 60 seconds. At that point, Sensei approached him and Daniel got nervous. Really nervous. As in, he didn’t participate at all that first class because he was fighting tears back and trying to get his courage up.
Honestly, this was one of the reasons we sought out a martial arts program, to help him learn to muster courage and determination in moments of anxiety.
Near the end of that first class, Daniel abruptly left the seats and walked up to the front (class was still going on), tugged on Sensei’s jacket, apologized and asked for another chance at the next class.
Afterwards, we told him he has two days to think about it, to pray about it, and to make a decision about continuing with TKD or not pursuing it. After two days, he was absolutely committed to “fixing it” and continuing. So we headed back to the dojo for round two and were impressed with Daniel’s resolve to be brave.
One extremely white uniform and a few weeks later, Daniel was hanging in there just fine. I had to google instructions on how to tie the belt (who knew it was so complicated?!), and we did have to work through a few panic moments (he actually “fake” excused himself to the bathroom during a class because “Mommy, I just had to THINK. I just needed to THINK a few minutes about what I was doing”).
I know he isn’t a baby anymore, but when he is on that mat he just feels so young and small. Too young and small to be on the mat in the first place. He daydreams while he should be paying attention, and doesn’t take any of it too seriously. Honestly, he doesn’t have a great desire to succeed at TKD, but he enjoys it. Just from playing around at home and the actual classes he is getting faster, more precise. He especially enjoys the fitness portions of class – push-ups, squats, duck walks, army crawls, etc.
I love watching Violet cheer him on (she flashes him “thumbs up” every time he looks toward us), and I love watching Daniel develop respect for his instructors. It’s good for him to have strong, Christian male role models other than Fernando. There are a lot of good reasons why it might be a good idea for us to continue with these classes after the Summer.
But I’m not sure we will.
At the end of the day, I just don’t think Daniel is ready. Ready to be serious/focused about something he wasn’t truly interested in. Ready to have to put on a brave face when he felt intimidated or talked to sternly. Ready to reign in his imagination and free spirit and play by someone else’s rules.
There is plenty of time for activities like these in Daniel’s future, and I’m sure we’ll run the gamut of team sports and activities. I DO think Daniel will be interested in martial arts ultimately. But right now, it seems to me that he is more interested in “playing martial arts” than actually learning it. Which is 100% ok. And if Daniel actually does want to continue TKD in the fall, we’ll happily cheer him on. But if he chooses to not go back, I will not mind a bit.
I might even take Daniel out to ice cream to celebrate a little more free play and a little less seriousness in our lives. Because he has his entire life to be serious and focused. These innocent years of tenderness and imagination won’t last forever.