When TheLittleGuy was an infant and toddler, there were things I didn’t want to write too much about here, because I was afraid I’d jinx them. (Parenting has definitely made me a bit more superstitious than I used to be.) For instance, we had very little drama related to “potty training” and, similarly, we had a very successful breastfeeding relationship. But while I felt both of those things were true in the midst of them, I didn’t want to write about those experiences because I knew (from listening to friends and reading lots of parenting blogs) that either of those things could change on a dime. Now that we are well past each of those stages, I feel like it may be ok to state those things affirmatively. Conversely, we had a lot of trouble with sleep – specifically getting the child to go to sleep. And I didn’t want to write about *that* because I was in such despair over it, I didn’t want to worry people. And because I don’t like “complaining” about my kid – especially over something that was strictly developmental and not his fault. That too seems to have (finally, praise be, I’m still in awe every night when he goes to sleep) resolved itself. I’m still a bit skittish about even typing those words, but I do hope we’re well past the worst of it.
The upshot is that I find it hard to do even occasional mom-blogging here. I feel like I’d either be griping or gloating – without meaning to in either case. At the same time, I feel like I have benefited hugely from other parents who write about any and all aspects of parenting and that I ought to try to return the favor, at least a little bit. It’s hard. Also, I haven’t been blogging much at all lately – further adding to the guilt.
But, I wanted to put a marker down – resisting giving in to superstition – and briefly mention a good thing for TLG that is still ongoing. We enrolled him in a tae kwon do school about 6 months ago. It is going very well and I am super impressed with his instructors and the school as a whole. If things continue to go well, he may do this for many more months or years, so I can’t just hold off and wait until it’s all over to provide a retrospective review. (Well, I could, but then I might have forgotten most of these early days.) So here are a few thoughts while it’s all still relatively new to us.
I did not do any kind of martial arts as a child. I’ve heard mostly really positive things from people I trust about the general value of these kinds of classes, but had no direct experience (and neither did TheGuy.) We wanted a physical activity for him this summer – he was too young for teeball at the time, we were taking a break from swim, and we felt he needed something more advanced and more structured (with more expectations) than The Little Gym ‘sports skills’ classes he’d been doing. I consulted my parenting-advice-universe (namely: searching my gmail archive of about a dozen local parenting lists I subscribe to) for local “best martial arts” “best karate class” and what not. That, coupled with some google-fu, led me to the school we ended up signing up with.
We went to a couple of sample classes and I was blown away. We had loved The Little Gym teachers, but these black belt tae kwon do masters are just working on a completely different plane. Just a few minutes in to the sample class I started leaning over to TheGuy and saying: “oh, this is good. I really like this.”
TLG is by nature cautious and very deliberate; reserved and prone to watch for awhile before trying something (if he decides to try it.) In his first few classes, he would cover his ears when the other kids would recite the student creed or when they’d yell “Ai-ya!” when practicing basic moves. As part of the warm-up the class runs laps (no passing, no pushing) around the studio. For the first few weeks TLG would *walk* very slowly and deliberately, rather than run. (They did let the other kids pass him, in that case.) Six months later: today in class, he was the second-most advanced kid in the class (by belt/stripe level), yelled as loudly as any of them, and kept a good pace doing laps. He enjoys the class, is motivated (in a good way) by the progressive way such classes track rank and skill levels (stripes->next belt->more stripes). I am impressed by how holistic the approach is, even for the little ones. Kids in his age group are given the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and confidence, to participate at their skill level, and to learn that the goal is to improve over your last attempt (rather than ‘beat’ another person.) At the same time, they incorporate competition (sparring) and plenty of games/activities where you may get out (lose) and have to wait on the sideline for a few minutes while others ‘win.’ There’s a ‘mat chat’ with the instructor every class, where they’re all reminded of things like “no bragging when you win; no crying when you lose” and to do their best, be respectful, and keep practicing.
There’s more I could say, and for all I know most martial arts classes for kids are this good. But we’re really happy with the one we’ve found and I hope he’ll continue with this for a long time. It’s very different from a team sport (which I also think are important and we’ll find ways to continue; he also liked his teeball league earlier this fall) and is much more challenging to him (in good ways) than the ‘academic’ side of pre-k (gloating alert: he reads, spells, and multiplies, already). Moreover, it helps reinforce things for him that he’ll need in school – especially confidence in speaking up and ‘performing’ in front of others. The way they run the classes means there are numerous opportunities for the kids to see their own progress. Today TLG performed better on the ‘jump kick challenge’ than he ever had before. He knew it, was pleased, and is now motivated to practice more and do even better the next time. I recognize that some of this is straight up ‘benefit of sport’ – what impresses me so much is that this program works so well for four-to-six-year-olds. (They have classes for older kids, too – but I’ve only glimpsed those – they seem similarly impressive, though.)
Anyway, if you’re local and want a pointer to this place or to attend a ‘bring-a-friend’ class with us, let me know.
Here’s TLG with his ‘advanced white belt’ – which he attended a ‘graduation’ for a couple of weeks ago. The graduation events are instructive in and of themselves, as he got to see a whole bunch of older kids (and some adults) get their own new belts at various different levels.