When zj was born, I really had no preconceived notions about what his personality would be like, what his interests would be or what activities he would enjoy.
I still try not to pigeonhole him too much.
But it's hard not to.
When he was around four or so, I began to notice that many, many, many (OK IT'S EVERYONE EXCEPT HIM, OK?) other kids his age were being "enrolled" in things. Soccer, dance, gymnastics, t-ball, whatever. It seemed kind of mandatory, so one day I asked him "Hey zj, would you like to play soccer? Like on a team with a coach and other kids and stuff?" "Would I have to listen to the coach and follow all the rules?" he asked. "Um, yes. EVERY TIME ALL DAY FOREVER AND ALWAYS," I answered. "Nah, I don't think I wanna play soccer then," he answered, and I breathed a sigh of relief, because I had dodged THAT bullet.
So we went on our merry way over the next couple of years, happily not "enrolled" or "signed up" for anything. I thought about it from time to time, like when people I know would post pictures of their kids on Facebook at dance recitals or gymnastics meets, and occasionally I would even mention it to zj, kind of in an offhand manner, and he would ask a few questions then lose interest.
Fine by me.
RJ and I discussed it at great length, where by "discussed" I mean I would ramble nearly incoherently to RJ about how I was ruining our kid because I didn't want to take him to soccer practice twice a week and how I really didn't want to force him into something that he might have no real interest in just because all the other kids were doing it and how I was sure he would be a total life failure because he wasn't taking piano, voice and macrame lessons regularly and how even though I COULD sign him up for something I didn't really want to and how much was too much and are kids over scheduled these days and which is worse, being over booked or under booked, and how that I thought it was a GOOD thing for kids to be bored sometimes because that's when they get creative and shouldn't kids have DOWNTIME for goodness sake...
And finally, we agreed that when and if he showed any sort of interest in any extracurricular activity himself, with no particular prodding from us, we would sign him up.
And then kindergarten happened, and good grief, that took up so much time and was enough of an adjustment (for zj AND for me) that it didn't really seem prudent to add more things on...
But somewhere along the way, zj started asking questions about what he called "karate guys," most of whom he saw on a variety of cartoons. "How do they learn to kick so high, Mama?" "Do you think he can break that board with his HEAD?" "That guy kicked that bad guy's BUTT!" "Wow! Did you see him jump up and spin around AT THE SAME TIME?"
So I did some research. I wasn't particularly well versed in martial arts, but I was looking for something that would be less violent and more controlled, more defense than offense, and something that would teach other things too, like respect and concentration and discipline. And hands down, Tae Kwon Do was the winner.
RJ and I bit the bullet and went to see a class at a local Tae Kwon Do dojo, the cool one that all cool kids attend to hang out and to be cool. And I disliked it immediately. People were coming in late to class and the instructors didn't seem to notice or care. There were lots of people talking all at once. It seemed sort of lazy and disorganized. I was not impressed. We kind of strung zj along for a while, because now that he knew he might get to take lessons, he was super excited. RJ and I, not so much.
A few weeks later, RJ came home for work, telling me that he had found another dojo, much smaller, and he had visited it but he wanted me to see it too. It was closer to home, and of course, MUCH more expensive. OF COURSE. We walked in, met the instructor, and he did a little one on one introductory class with zj. I was hooked. So was zj. We signed him up the next day, at considerable expense to ourselves. Considerable expense to RJ, because he paid for a year's worth of classes up front, and considerable expense to me because I have to put on shoes and a bra and drive zj to class three times a week, then keep cj entertained and quiet FOR A WHOLE HOUR while the class is in session.
And you know what? It's totally worth it. Because it's a fit for zj's personality. He loves it. He adores being the center of attention and this is just the right format to allow that. I can see the pride on his face when he gets a move right, and I can see the concentration as he works to perfect more difficult stances.
And I'm thrilled that this is something HE WANTS to do, as opposed to something someone else made him do, or something his friends do, or whatever. That is how I want to teach him to live and to be.
The first lesson dealt heavily with respect, and I'm already getting "yes, ma'am" more often than "yeah" or "uh-huh." That makes the mortgage payment sized monthly fee nearly worth it in itself.
After two lessons in the beginner class, zj was invited to join the regular mixed class, and I'll admit that I felt a little, ok, a LOT, of fear and trepidation when I took him into his first mixed class and he was the only white belt in the room.
But he walked right up, bowed the way he had been taught, and joined right in.
And he held his own.
And I am one proud Mama.