Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And now for the exciting conclusion of . .

How We Got Kicked out of Karate Class

After a terrifically stressful initial experience at the old dojo, I opted to bring Seconda back, despite my specifically telling her I would never do such a thing. The reason for this is simple: it was free. When something is offered to me free it is almost impossible for me to say no. Free lollipops at the barber shop? Sure. Free balloons at the haircutting place? Bring it on. If it is free I will take it. I just hope no one ever offers me free crack cocaine. I’m pretty sure I’d do the right thing but I would be thinking of what a value it was rather wistfully.

So when I signed Primo up for the “holiday special” at the Karate school, they told me that Seconda could train for free with her brother. Not only that, but she would get a free uniform!!!!! Can you blame me for offering the child another chance at martial arts greatness?
Before our first official class, Primo and I explained over and over again to Sec that she would have to participate in the class for kids her age this time and that she could not join in with Primo in the big kid class. She seemed to understand.

But when it was time to put her money where her mouth was, so to speak, she couldn’t muster the courage to go it alone. So the sensei told me (ordered me, more like) to get up there with her.
This is why I left the comfortable viewing area, the rows and rows of seats filled with parents and siblings watching the kids doing karate, and ascended the stairs to join the 3 and 4 year-olds and be the object of public humiliation. I tried to just sit on the side of the mat and send encouraging thoughts but the sensei told me I had to join in, ”Just stay right next to her and do what they do!” he instructed.

So I did jumping jacks.
I ran laps.

Please keep in mind that this was performed sans sports bra. I nearly knocked my own eye out while running laps. I don’t know if the sensei understands this but having your tetas flop around violently is some painful shit. And I can’t begin to discuss the level of humiliation I sustained when I was the last student to make it back to my team on the relay race. The sensei actually jeered, “Whatsamatter? You can’t keep up?”

The worst part is this very public indignity did not even help my daughter. Having me right there with her did not give her the confidence to participate. It gave her the confidence to make mischief.

While everyone was doing bear walks in the relay race, she was running figure eights around the room.

When everyone was running laps, she was seated in the middle of the room, directly in the way.

And when everyone was listening to the sensei tell a story, she really let herself go.

The sensei was recounting a parable to the class, and me, while we sat obediently criss-cross applesauce around him. Seconda meanwhile ran around from one end of the room to the other shrieking in delight. It was very disruptive. I was having an actual ulcer. I didn’t want to seem like I was condoning her behavior but at the same time I knew it would make more of a scene if I started to chase after her. So I sat there with the kids, praying that she’d run out of steam and wondering why I had invited this misery upon myself. The sensei was just ignoring her, though with obvious effort. Unlike Montessori class, where you can join if you want or continue with your self-directed play if you’d prefer, in karate class, you toe the line. There is no alternative activity. You do what sensei says.

Then, in the middle of the parable, Seconda ran over to a little white cone the sensei uses as a goal in the relay race. She picked it up and ambled over to the group. And then, with an irrepressible glee, she placed the cone one of the other children’s heads.

That did it.

“Mommy, Seconda needs to leave the class,” the sensei said, looking like he’d like a few blocks of plaster to chop in half.

I have never in my life been so delighted to be kicked out of something. It was like finding a trap door in a No Exit nightmare. Halleluiah!

I grabbed that wild child and ushered her quickly off the mat, while Sensei said to the other children: “See what happens when you fool around in karate class?”

Yes, he made an example out of us.

I kept Sec close to me after that, and plied her with bribes (in reward for her exemplary behavior!) to keep her quiet while we watched Primo do karate, pretty impeccably.

I don’t blame Sec, really. She’s a toddler, for crying out loud, and I don’t feel like its any failing in her (or her upbringing, thank you very much) that she still wants to do her own thing. But I will tell you one thing for sure – that kid’s karate uniform has already been retired, after a single inglorious debut. I’m bringing Primo-san twice a week to class, but Seconda-san is staying at home from now on. No martial arts for the one. Now, circus arts on the other hand, might be just the thing . . .