Parenting Without a Manual

Thursday, March 17, 2011 16:30
Posted in category Inspirational

Being a parent is a tough job sometimes. It’s nothing like the brochures make it appear.

Once that little bundle of joy begins to form a personality you begin to realize how truly extraordinary your responsibility is.

Before I had kids I promised myself I would NOT be one of those parents who are constantly shuffling their kids from one activity to the next. It makes for tired, stressed out, and over-scheduled children.

But as our little man was growing up we noticed that there were opportunities everywhere for little kids to get involved in activities.

I started viewing it as a low-pressure opportunity to let him dabble in a few things and get a feel for what he liked. That way, once he was older and his time was limited, he’d know what few activities he really wanted to focus on.

So, at the age of 3, we signed him up for three-on-three soccer in a six-week city league. He had lots of fun, made some friends, and got some exercise. That’s all good, right?

No pressure, just fun.

He then tried tee ball in the same city league. Same thing – no pressure, just fun.

Now you’d have to know my little guy to understand this, but his love of super heroes at that age was super intense. If he was at home, he was dressed as Batman, Superman, a Ninja Turtle, or a Power Ranger nearly every waking moment of every day.

He was constantly whirling about, kicking and punching into the air and telling me he was a super hero. So I decided I’d sign him up for karate. I passed a dojo every day on my way home from his daycare, and I noticed there were several little guys his age in there.

I figured he’d get some exercise, learn some discipline, make some friends, and get to pretend he’s a super hero.

And all that was true.

For a while…

As time went on, it became very apparent that my son had a real knack for karate. He climbed the ranks fairly quickly and earned his black belt in three years at the age of 6.

Now, of course, this is a little guy black belt. He couldn’t take on a grown man or anything! But he could definitely take on a bully, and he’d also be able to make a stranger think twice about messing with him.

Karate was a year-round activity two nights a week and he continued to play the occasional city league sport.

He enjoyed playing all of the sports reasonably well, but he wasn’t passionate about any of them by any means.

I found a lot of satisfaction in this (like we were crossing out some options and making way for others).

I didn’t want to direct his course. After all, that’s not my job. I just want to be supportive and allow him to find his passion.

But at some point (and I’m not quite sure when it happened), my son stopped enjoying karate. It started to become work – honest to goodness work. As he got older, and more and more younger kids were entering the class, he just got bored.

For the first time, he started complaining about having to go karate. And, unfortunately, he was complaining EVERY time we went.

He started misbehaving somewhat. Now, if you know me, you know this was NOT an option for a couple reasons…

1) I don’t let my kids misbehave or be disrespectful in public (and parents who do drive me bananas – but that’s another post for another day).

2) He was a black belt which means he stood at the front of the class with the sensei and helped lead and teach. You can’t be acting goofy when you’re supposed to be setting an example!

Once he started misbehaving, I spoke to the sensei and had him moved up to the adult class. He was almost 7 at that time and there were many kids about that age entering the adult class.

I knew he wasn’t enjoying the younger class and there was still lots of time left on our contract. PLUS, he is good at it. It teaches discipline, and it keeps him active.

I noticed immediate improvement in his behavior once he started the adult classes. Students take the instruction much more seriously in the adult class; so being a class clown would not be tolerated, and he realized that quickly.

He was actually learning some really invaluable stuff that he could use in real-life situations, should he ever need it. Things were looking up. But then something happened.

For years, our son had asked us to let him try gymnastics. We didn’t intentionally NOT let him try it. We just didn’t think about it since there’s no gym we drove by consistently for it to even cross our minds.

One day, sort of out of the blue, we agreed that both he and our 3-year-old daughter would probably have fun getting to bounce around for a while. We honestly thought she would enjoy it more than he would, but he had asked so often in the past we figured we’d better let him try as well.

He immediately fell in love the first time he took a class, and he’s been hooked ever since. He literally looks like a kid on Christmas morning the entire time he’s on the gym floor.

Later in the fall he tried football, and, much to my surprise, he LOVED it as well!

But at that point we’re finding ourselves over-scheduled.

And tired.

In January, he joined a competitive gymnastics team which means he practices a minimum of six hours a week.

Karate is still two nights a week. And once football starts back up that will be three days a week once again.

Something has got to give!

It all costs money and precious time. Our time. His time. We’re tired. He’s tired.

The dilemma is that karate is something he’s always done.

He’s good at it.

We have a contract.

Did I mention he’s good at it.

So what’s a mom to do?

I had to wake up and realize that I wanted this for him. He didn’t.

And the reasons I used to want it no longer make sense – He does have self-discipline. He is active. He has lots of friends. He has learned how to protect himself.

I don’t believe in letting children quit things.

But I also realize he’s not quitting on a commitment he made.

He’s simply trying hard to endure the misery of a commitment I made.

And that’s not fair to him.

It’s hard to watch your children be unhappy. Yes, he is VERY good at karate; but he simply does NOT enjoy it anymore. He loves the people there, but his heart’s not in it. And it breaks my heart to see how miserable he is.

Technically our contract ends in July, but I think he’s done for now. After all, life’s too short to be miserable.

With that said, I leave you with this…

Some people may say we’re doing the wrong thing, but to them I say – he’s only 7 years old.

He can always take up karate later in life, but he can only be 7 once.

He’s a great kid, and I want to see him happy.

After all, that’s why I had him in the first place – to bring more happiness into the world.

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