One of the greatest challenges I have faced yet since I started teaching aikido was when my daughter decided that she, too, wanted to train. ‘
As any parent knows, providing a supportive, yet disciplined environment for your child is often a tricky path to follow. You want them to commit to what they’re studying, but you also want to give them the freedom of growing at their own pace, of finding their own enjoyment of the sport. If they decide they don’t want to practice, you have to be careful to ensure that they don’t fall into the habit of quitting simply because of a bad day or because they are being challenged. Yet, you don’t want to force them to participate when they truly aren’t enjoying themselves any longer.
These issues are hard enough for me at times; but when you throw in the fact that I’m an active participant in the activity that my daughter wants to study… well, that’s whole different ball game. In fact, one of the reasons why I typically do not teach kids classes now is because it was very hard for me to be “sensei” and to be “dad” at the same time. My daughter also had the same issues.
Lately though, Hannah has grown a tremendous amount. She has begun to show the same focus in her aikido practice as she has when she takes dance–her other passion. And, Tuesday night, she got to show that focus during our latest round of tests. My wife, bless her heart, not only took pictures of the entire event, but actually figured out how to record Hannah’s test through our digital camera. I don’t know how to embed the video directly, so if you’re interested in seeing it, feel free to visit Jen’s blog here.
One thing I’ve noticed when I watch testing: I’m very, very picky about technique. Probably too much so, in fact. And I am still learning how to adjust my expectations for younger kids. Even watching Hannah’s test, I found myself thinking: “Hm, the technique is not 100% correct.” And then the thought slammed into me: “She’s FIVE. And she’s focused. And she’s absolutely dedicated to doing the very best she can.”
I try to tell her this often, but I’m writing it here on the off chance that, somehow, she reads the entries of this blog sometime later in her life: I am so very proud of her. I am proud that she studied hard for her test, that she took it seriously, and that she was focused. And I’m also proud that, throughout all that, she found time to laugh and enjoy the experience.
Pride may not be a great trait for a martial artist, but I think that, in this case, a little pride isn’t a bad thing…