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.”

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