Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Great Expectations

Yesterday I took H to his first Tae Kwon Do lesson. He was so excited to don the dobok, although I needed them to show me how to tie the belt, and we were off.

I've been looking for that something that will magically transform little H from wild animal to doting student and I just knew that this would be the answer. He took his place among the other three little boys, all white belts as well, and started out putting forth his A game. He ran, kicked and punched when directed and demonstrated agility around the four plastic cones. My heart was singing as the look of exhileration and pure joy overtook his face.

This lasted for about twenty to twenty-five minutes of the class...and then the Nell version of H came out to play and it was kind of like watching three farmers chase a greased pig. After about three minutes of shenanigans during which I wanted to crawl under my seat in mortification (but also during which, they did not seek my assistance so were handling it just fine without me) the Grand Master entered the lesson.

In his booming, accented voice he instructed H to sit at the side of the mats. Look straight forward. Answer 'Yes, Sir!' to the questions he was asked. H tried to slink from his spot on the ground a couple of times, but the Grand Master turned his attention away from the other kids long enough to look directly at Henry and say Sit Down! Look Straight! But not aggressively, just authoritatively.

After the third time, he stopped to ask H how old he was, and just when I thought my heart would break for H and how embarassed he must be, the Grand Master broke into a smile and they applauded H for sitting there. He still had to sit out the rest of the class on the side of the mat, but it didn't feel demoralizing to me. It was exactly the kind of parenting I strive for, but always seem to miss.

At the end of class, H left the room and broke into tears as he saw me "I wasn't done yet!" The Grand Master called H over to his office and we sat down for what I thought would be a lecture, but what ended up as a pep talk. He told H that even he was probably the same way when he was four years old, but he listened to his Master and now look where he is! He encouraged H to come back, but if he wants to participate...he has to listen. We weren't able to leave with a sullen nod of the head, but instead he waited until H loudly answered "Yes, sir!"

As we left, I couldn't help myself. I told H that I was disappointed in how he acted, and wished he would have listened. I took away his bubble gum privelege and a tantrum ensued. Had I just kept my mouth shut, the talk in the office would most likely have been far more effective. My rant also served to erase the fun of the first twenty minutes when he fully participated and had a great time. I had J ask H about the lesson without me there so I could see what he'd say about it and sure enough his answer was "I was naughty." Although he did add, "I was playing tag and they didn't want to!"

Preschool for four year-olds here is not only not free...it's expensive. We're sending him this winter and everyone is holding the carrot out to me that he'll be so much better once he's in school, and that's when it hit me...I keep waiting for the thing that will make him "better" when what will make him that way is not going to be one Tae Kwon Do class or five months of pre-school. Sure, all of these things will help, but I realized that I've been going into all these situations; swim lessons, free play, museum adventures, with the idea that this will be it, instead of let's try this on for size and see how he likes it.

I have this kid who is so full of energy and enthusiasm, who loves life, and takes it on like a freight train. I love that about him. At the same time, I cringe at it. Mainly because of the way I feel like it reflects on me. As a stay-at-home mom, I've found that because I no longer have a career that defines or exemplifies my competence and achievement, I see H as my report card. Instead of encouraging him to be his very own person who needs to develop and learn his own lessons in his own way, I see every "it's just a phase" public display of willfulness as proof that I'm really shitty at my job.

I don't know how many times I've hear Miranda in my head saying "If we were dating, now is the time that we would break up!" That's certainly not how I want to feel about my child. The kiddo that my heart breaks for when his feelings get hurt because he's so sensitive, but so in-your-face, all-over-the-place that people take for granted that he's not. The one who can push my every last button and then say something that's so smart, and so funny, that I have to turn my head away to hide the laughter. How do you rectify the two?

We'll go back Monday and I'll swallow my preconceived notions of how it should be and just try to take it as it is.

Getting over yourself so that your kids can just be is so much easier in theory.


lisa said...

I love this post! You are so honest and reflective. I hear you so loud and clear! It is so challenging to just let your child be who they are, I am really struggling with this myself these days. It was cathartic for me to read this post. i would love to hear more. :)

Amy, Bryan and Zoey said...

Awesome post. Seriously. You hit the nail on the head. I think all moms feel like their child's behavior is a reflection of who they are as a mom...and it's tough when your kid is being something less than stellar. But hooray for you for getting H out there and exposed to so many new, exciting things...I know you and J must be sacrificing something (or, more likely, a LOT of somethings) to give him these opportunities. You rock! Just remember that! ;-)

LuLu WL said...

You're doing a great job S. I have seen dozens of kids in my time as itinerant nanny just like H. He's four, he has lots of wiggles. He's smart, he's creative. He gets bored easy. And I LOVE kids like that. They keep you on your toes, keep you laughing and they are always up for some FUN. I've seen kids with serious problems, as I am sure you have seen as well, and H. is NOT a red flag kid. He's a GREAT kid. I am SO stoked that you want to embrace him where he's at. Because don't we all want/need people in our life like that, who just meet us where we're at and love us no matter what? That is a GREAT gift to a child. Love you guys!

Alex Elliot said...

Great post! I will play the devil's advocate though and say that the one big difference between preschool, swim lessons and Tae Kwon Do is that with preschool you have the time to yourself and you won't be there to see how your child is behaving. It really is a true break so it's not really just about your child but also about you and giving yourself some time.