The hardest dance of my life

As we walk into the door of the karate studio I can feel the tension that has been building in the car reach a climax.

“Please mom,” he pleads quietly in my ear as I sign him in, “don’t make me do this. I just can’t do it.”

He has been begging me all afternoon to let him skip class. He was blaming the sunburn on his back, but I know it’s more than that.

At home, in front of dad and sister, it wasn’t as desperate as it was in the car. He tried everything to get me to turn the car back around. Now that we are in the building and it is time for class, the panic has intensified.

“You can’t do this,” he says. “I’m in pain mom. I can’t do it. I really, really can’t. If it was my old class I could, but this one is hard.”

He whispers the words in a rush with tears in his eyes. He is holding himself back from screaming and I can see his little body tense with fear.

“You have to go into class and tell your sensei,” I tell him calmly. “If he excuses you then we will go home.”

He throws his body on me and I try to hug him. He wiggles away and looks at me with anger.

“Time for class,” his sensei announces.

He tries one more please, but I don’t make eye contact or respond. He takes off his flip-flops and throws them at me.

“Pick those up,” I say. “That is not OK.”

He picks them up, stacks them beneath the chair and walks into class.

I take a deep breath and start texting my friend on the phone for support.

Did I do the right thing? Did I push too hard? What if I just damaged our relationship?

I look up and see that the class isn’t doing basic stretches right and the sensei is making them do extra burpees. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a pushup followed by a jump into the air. I’m so worried about his back.

For a few minutes I consider walking into his class and saying, “please don’t push my boy too hard today. He has been very emotional and he has a sunburn.”

Then I see my boys face.

He is smiling.

Really, really smiling.

My eyes fill with tears. He not only is doing it, but he is amazing.

This little boy of mine is killing it.

His back is fine. It was just his fear of doing something hard and failing.

This is what being a parent is all about.

And it sucks.

I often feel unprepared and caught off guard with the intensity of his feelings.

My heart hurts and I constantly have to tell myself that I cannot save him from pain.

I am not here to make his life easy and happy.

Ugh. I hate that.

My role is to help him find his path and allow him to become fully himself.

He pushes away from me, yet still needs to feel safe and connected.

I try to give him freedom to make choices about his life, but I can’t let him give up when things get hard.

I have to balance my urge to protect and shelter with his NEED to be pushed and challenged.

This dance is exhausting.

And it’s just begun.

At the end of the class he walks out, puts on his shoes and hugs me.

“Sorry mom for how I acted,” he says. “Thanks for making me go.”


12 thoughts on “The hardest dance of my life

  1. That is a great post what you said here, particularly:

    My role is to help him find his path and allow him to become fully himself.

    What a great gift for a person to be given that. Keep dancing it!


  2. I am so inspired by your thoughts about motherhood, and the wonderful way you have with your children. Thank you for sharing this part of you. 🙂


  3. …that picture of the two of you is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen!!! So soft and love-filled……..cudos to you both!!!!


  4. Wow! I was captured by your writing with the first story! What a gifted talent you have. How sincere and heartfelt and so real! What a beautiful person you are! Thank you for making me see the positives in life. No matter how hard it can sometimes be,…there is some light, some hope, some beauty!


  5. You’re right: it is a hard dance!! I’m always questioning myself: was I too hard, was I too soft? Thanks for you posts: it’s good to know that other parents are in the same boat!! Hugs, H in Healdsburg


  6. I believe in signs. I am a single mom of 3 teens. My husband died in 2011 and I have been raising the kids alone for the past few years and today I stumbled on your blog. It couldn’t have come at a more important time. My children are older than yours but boy do we share the same feelings about raising them. I am always second guessing myself in situations and reading this blog was like listening to what I say in my own head. Thanks for writing it down so I can read it out loud and see that I am not the only one.


  7. You have a gift for acknowledging the fear, risk, pain, depression and helping us find the tools to let in the light of life. Good lessons for adults, too, from the everyday experiences with your son and daughter to Robin Williams. Oh my, that one hit home. Your writing strikes a much needed balance. Thank you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s