This week, we took Jrue to his first Taekwondo class. His particular group, the Tiny Tigers, are for children aged 4-6, a cohort identifiable by a distinct level of what I call “filter-less-ness.”
Our decision to familiarize Jrue with martial arts was two-fold: first, upon recognizing that he was not the most comfortable dribbling a basketball or catching a football (and his running skills are currently comically sub-par), the most logical directive for consistent physical fitness was a form of karate. Secondly, martial arts at his age focuses on self-confidence, discipline, and concentration. The instructors also emphasize manners and teamwork while the children socialize—quite the mommy wish list for my emotional introvert. During his first class, I was happy to see Jrue in the company of two other boys and one fantastic little girl, all draped in their sharply white gi’s, all sporting the enthusiasm of newly-adopted puppies.
The 30-minute introductory course was the funniest occasion I have experienced this back-half of 2017, hands down.
The owner of the studio and the two Tiny Tigers instructors gathered the children together to begin to build a familiarity amongst them. I was pleasantly surprised to overhear Jrue gabbing away to the bunch about his name and age and how ready he was to do karate and The Wheels on the Bus.
Once it was time to begin the lessons of the day, the teachers manually positioned the four learners onto pieces of tape, marking discernable placements on the blue mat.
“Positioned” is a decent phrase…of course, the kids wandered, they danced, they spun. However, a black belt stance was encouraged. Arms to sides, feet together. The young Tigers performed various kicks to see how high they could go; the instructors even raised the mat to their adult head level and held the kids in the air to kick “really high.” The did a blocking exercise in which one instructor stood in the middle of a circle made with the children and emboldened them to block a foam bat with their forearms repeatedly before it bopped them playfully atop the head.
This maneuver was met with a lot of jumping up and down and shrieking laughter from the children as us parents sat watching nearby, reduced to giggles ourselves.
The masters discussed what to say when strangers tried to take them from mommy and daddy. (A lot of shrieking “Stop!” was subsequently inserted.) They talked about what good friends do and what strong black belted artists the kids were going to make someday. I was pleased that they could orientate so quickly, and so effectively, with busy preschoolers. It’s highly impressive to watch adults who can take control of a room while maintaining a playful environment.
It’s the similar vibe I have for Jrue’s preschool teachers.
As I observed my son in motion, I was hit with how fast time was moving. It was just yesterday when I was in an 8-hour-long labor process, wrought with blood pressure spikes and drops and, in the end, a 7-pound baby boy on a sunny Friday afternoon. I remember the evening he found he could crawl. He cruised furniture, he ate using a spoon, he transitioned to a sippy cup. All of these little milestones brought us right up to his first karate class.
My son was a 4-year-old child, far from that wide-eyed newborn, but still with countless achievements ahead of him. During his class, he showed me that I didn’t have to worry about him being shy sometimes or a bit of a perfectionist or his up and down language development. He was a child in a gathering of his peers, none of who he knew 30 minutes prior, having fun with strangers he had not previously interacted with, learning movements he had never practiced before.
Jrue’s constant looking back at me to verify that I was watching and approved of his behavior showed that he trusted my support. At times, he smiled and tried to talk to me from across the mat, and I quickly gave the “turn around” gesture and pointed to the instructor who was speaking about respect. At the end of class, the students were directed to bow to their parents and run out to give big hugs. I could have stamped “Karate Mom” onto my shoulder right then.
His mimicking the exact motions of the instructors, even when the instructors didn’t tell him to, showed me Jrue’s continuous learning spirit that I’m always promoting. If the teacher turned around to work with another student, Jrue turned around to wave at me. At one point, the instructor went down to one knee informally to address the group. Jrue did it, too. The instructor laughed.
His singing and dancing…I don’t believe we’ll ever be able to separate my son from his apparently ingrained propensity to sing and dance everywhere. I just kept my hand slapped against my forehead and shook my head when he started, mirroring the mother sitting next to me doing the same. All of the kids had the accorded attention spans of adolescents their age, so what could we do?
“Your 4-year-old is full of energy, talkative and curious,” wrote Beth Stewart for SheKnows Media. “They’re eager to show you what they can do, and you will . . .be excited by their accomplishments. They constantly test their environment and will veer between feelings of security and insecurity.” Under the article’s subcategory “Social skills for 4-year-olds,” Stewart denoted, “Shows a high degree of interest in singing, dancing and acting.” (Stewart, 2017)
The next biggest benchmark will be the afternoon he breaks his board and earns his white belt.
And that’s a day, just another day in Jrue’s milestone history, that I will ugly cry. I look forward to it.
Stewart, Beth. “Not a Baby, Not Yet School-Age—Being 4 Years Old is a Tricky Stage in Life.” SheKnows, Aug. 27, 2017, http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/814238/your-4-year-old-development-behavior-and-parenting-tips-1. Accessed Oct. 25, 2017.