Spencer just finished his fourth week of Taekwondo. While I would love to say that he's embraced it with open arms, he hasn't. Wait. Maybe that's not accurate. He has completely and totally embraced the art of Taekwondo... but his attitude towards class leaves a lot to be desired. I get that. It's overwhelming. It's a new situation, new people, new rules... and lots of things you don't really understand. There is no "ramp up" or "introduction" - they just throw them in with the current class and figure it's sink or swim. (Spencer's class is 8 students to 3 instructors, where students range from white belt to blue belt, and they meet twice a week.) While I am a big believer in that approach, it just highlights when you are the "new kid." And there's all sorts of language and positions neither he nor I understand. And, believe me, I'm trying to absorb every single thing too from the waiting area... because I'm learning too. And the most obvious difference is that Spencer is a lot smaller than the other students. Significantly. While Spencer has a larger than life personality, and you don't normally notice his size... you do here. And that's both a blessing and a curse.
We have been anxiously awaiting Spencer's fourth birthday, because that is the age when they open enrollment to children. A couple weeks before Spencer's birthday, he and I went in to sign him up. The Grand Master joked that I am the only one that answered a multiple choice question with an essay. What can I say?! I was excited! The question was why are you enrolling your child in class? The answers given were along the lines of "discipline," "exercise," etc. My answer involved discussion about cultural connections, exposure to the language, discipline, respect (I am the Mama, dammit!) as well as self-confidence. While I was filling out all the forms, Spencer was completely and totally entranced watching a class in session. I could barely pull him away from the viewing area to Meet with Master Y and get sized for his uniform (dobok).
The first class went great. He ran in, he listened, he participated. He even earned a star for how well he did. The next class!? Totally different story. There were lots of tears, and lots of Mama kneeling on the mats with Spencer in her lap. And that's how it continued for the next several classes. I could usually cajole him into joining the class at the midway point. And then I would slowly sneak away. It made for a very long, stressful class for me. Lots of people were saying "Oh, he's so shy!" (People, you are being PLAYED.) Everyone was telling me "They all do this." But it was getting old. And I was regretting this decision. Then there was the class where he sobbed the whole entire time, then turned it off as soon as the class was dismissed asking "Can we have pizza for dinner?!" (Believe me, it took all of *my* mental discipline not to flip out on him.) At that point, we all realized that he was fine... and the instructors started using tough love to get him into class. Slowly, oh so slowly... he's getting there. He's a little more willing to go into class. Or at the very least be cajoled in there. And he's earned three more stars, and a stripe on his belt for knowing the first four stances.
And when he's not in class?! He's constantly showing everyone and anyone his moves. I can hear him whispering "hana, tuel, set, net" to himself (That's one, two, three, four in Korean) while doing the appropriate stances. He's talking about Taekwondo, and watching the random movie here or there on YouTube. So I know he loves it. Just not the class.
Although it hasn't been all gloom and doom... there are moments of hilarity mixed in as well. (As it is with everything Spencer does.) It became apparent immediately that there was going to be a battle of wills between Spencer and the Master when Spencer was being... uhm... "difficult" about trying on his dobok (uniform). The Master kneeled down in front of him and said, "Spencer, Lesson #1... Master Y *always* wins." Within a minute, the dobok was on. I thought "Oh, Master Y, you and I are going to get along just fine...". The other moment of hilarity came when the Master came over to Spencer and said, "Mr. Spencer, let's get your uniform straightened out here!" Spencer placed his hand on his chest, looked the Master straight in the eye and said, "Master, this is not a uniform, it's my Dobok. Doooohhh. Baaaaahhhk. Got it?!" The Master just looked at me and laughed, then said "Well, I knew that... but I didn't think he would!" Yup, that's my boy.
There were plenty of times while I was kneeling on the mat, with Spencer in my lap, wondering if this was the right decision. But Spencer's fate was sealed when he walked out of a (tear-free!) class a couple of weeks ago and said to me, "You know what Mama?! No one there looks like you. They all look like ME!" His voice, a mix of wonder and pride, sealed the deal. He was staying. If for no other reason than to give him the one thing we can't offer ourselves... pride in his country, his looks, and his history. While we have pride in all those things for him... it's not always the easiest thing to instill in your child who most of the time is "not the same" as the others. Spencer stands a little taller after his classes. Even if he doesn't realize it yet.