We haven’t had the greatest success with extra-curricular activities. When our son was three, we started him in a preschool soccer class. It was a frustrating experience: while all of the other kids listened to to instructor and nicely ran back and forth in the gym, our kid ran in the opposite direction. Or hid in the net. And sometimes purposely kicked the ball at other children. I would sit in the observation area, glaring through the window, mouthing “pay attention!” to him through the glass. My husband decided he couldn’t be the one to take him to the class; it was that frustrating. What followed was years of the same; in gymnastics class, he refused to warm up with the other kids. In baseball, he would walk slowly to first base after a hit, and when he fielded the ball, he would just hold it instead of throwing it in. At swimming lessons, he would swim off while the instructors were teaching the other children. In karate, he was pulled to the side countless times for misbehaving and made to do push-ups. As his parents, it wasn’t just frustrating. It was downright embarrassing. No matter how many times it happened, it still bothered me to watch all of the other kids behaving nicely, learning, progressing in a craft…while my kid just ran around in circles. I longed to be that parent who could just relax and enjoy watching their kid in class, instead of the one who was a constant ball of stress.
So that’s why what happened last week was nothing short of a miracle. After three years of forcing him to go to karate every week, something has finally clicked- and he is catching on faster than anyone expected. He spent the last week at karate camp, and at the end we were told that he is learning so well he will be invited to the elite class. We were blown away…our kid, the one who can’t pay attention, in an elite class?!
Yesterday, my daughter and I went to his Saturday morning class. I sat in the viewing area, and a mom sat next to me with her three-year-old daughter in tow. Her son had just started karate a few weeks ago and she asked me which kid was mine. As I pointed him out, I noticed that he had been pulled from the class and was working with a small group of children who were all at a higher level. “Wow,” she said, “he’s really good.” I nodded in agreement, looked down, and noticed that my daughter had slid over in her seat and asked the woman’s daughter if she wanted to sit down with her. Right then, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. Here I was, watching my typically-behaviorally-challenged kid perfectly demonstrate the third kata to his peers, while my more-cranky-than-not toddler was offering her seat to a child she just met. Maybe we’re not so terrible at this parenting thing after all, I thought. It might take our kid a bit longer than most to shine, but when it does happen, it is sweeter than anything I could imagine, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.