My older kids are very involved in taekwondo. Since we’re at the school three, four, sometimes more nights a week, the little one was sort of born into the place.
From when we first brought her there, we’d been marking time until she turned three and would be old enough for the class of youngest students—the Lil’Dragons.
The time passed as time will, in an unforgivable hurry. My oldest child got his black belt…
and the wee one claimed the playroom as her own and shunned the instructors with embarrassing rudeness.
The middle child earned her black belt…
and the wee one made up her own competition routine in our livingroom and continued to hide behind us when any grown-up in a white uniform smiled at her.
And, then she became three and we found the Dragon Class time to conflict with our schedule. Until this past September.
“Is this a real Dragons Class?” I asked an instructor after one of my older kids’ classes, because the time was just so perfect for us, I couldn’t believe it.
“Yes, it is a real Dragons Class,” he said, “they fly around the room and breathe fire and everything.”
I laughed. He laughed. I planned to bring the wee one, who was still incredibly shy, but was getting to be the age where these things are important.
The first day didn’t go well. It was a brand new class time, so she was the only one there. This was an instructor who had previously been off her radar. He’s involved with the older kids, but he never showed much interest in the little one at all. He wasn’t one to try to high-five her or get her to smile, so she had no opinion of him at all. She tried in the class, she really did. He taught her to bow before entering the room, which was monumental. He talked and she listened, he demonstrated how to bow and she repeated, he asked her to do it again, deeper and she tried. He even got that coveted high-five which none of the other instructors have been able to pry from her. She went in and stood on her star, faced him, and went into a middle stance when he showed her how. She even said, “Middle stance,” when he asked her to. Then he suggested jumping jacks and she started to cry.
I went over to peek in the door and she ran and attached herself to me like a tick. The class lasted eight minutes.
We waited a few weeks and then tried again, bringing her older sister to help out. It went so well that I had to admit, the instructor was right. They did seem to take flight when their little Dragon feet scurried around the room, and they yelled with such enthusiasm it was believable that the air from their lungs could leave their mouths in flames. Things went like that for a few classes and then she wasn’t as shy anymore.
Last Tuesday, she was a different kind of Dragon, an evil one.
She made faces, rolled on the floor, was belligerent and just plain bad. It was humiliating. I’ve commented before about what is the worst part of being a parent and so far, this takes the prize. Sitting there, watching your child be an out-of-control shithead and being unable to do anything about it, makes you feel so… impotent. It was one of the hardest half-hours I’ve ever had to endure. I couldn’t believe that she could go from one end of the spectrum to the other in such a short time.
Since then, I’ve dug deep in my experience as a mother and a social worker and come up with some plans to make this work. My intentions were accompanied by hysterical overreaction to the situation and fumbling apologies to the instructor and others involved in the class. It’s hard when you actually have a relationship with the people. It wouldn’t have been as bad if they were just nameless adults who meant nothing to us. But, we know these people and like them and I didn’t want them to think I was a crappy parent. As a seasoned mother of three kids, with their ages spanning over ten years, I still have a lot to learn and I still mismanage situations.
The last two classes went without incident. My behavior plan is effective. I know there will be ups and downs and it’s all unpredictable. But, at least now I feel like she’s proven she can be good, so I won’t have the urge to hide under a chair if she acts out again. But, being good is so hard. It wears a Dragon out.
Yesterday, we were driving in the car and one of my kids put the Dog Train CD into the player. There’s a song called “Dragonfire” that none of us had particularly liked before, but this time, I found myself blinking back tears at some of the lyrics:
It burns so hot,
It burns so bright.
In the dark, Dragonfire.
In the cold, Dragonfire.
In the dark,
In the cold,
There’s a spark
That I hold
Here within me,
My own Dragonfire…
So small I am,
So newly made.
Within me a flame
To keep me unafraid.
I am small, but complete.
I have light. I have heat
I am never alone,
I can summon my own
That Sandra Boynton, I think she knows a thing or two about putting a shy three-and-a-half-year-old into a taekwondo class. Lil’ Dragon to be sure.
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