As parents of an active 11-year-old boy we have spent a lot of time and money trying different sports and exercise programs. Ryan’s happiest days have always been spent outside and when he started school I thought Soccer would be a natural first sport. We found a local league and a place on a team but a few months into the season I had to admit this kind of structured activity may not be the best fit for him. There were some good days but I would have been more gracious about the muddy laundry, frozen toes and extra layers of fleece if he came home from practice with a smile on his face. He wasn’t a bad player, his kicks were right on target and he could run for days but I started to see team sports required a little more.
Loving my son means accepting that he moves through life at his own pace. In comparison I am a compulsive clock watcher and can’t stand missing a deadline so when my due date came and went without our baby I had to acknowledge the fact that parenting was going to require something that didn’t come naturally to me; patience. Ryan finally arrived 11 days late via c-section and my Doctor laughed out loud when she saw his hands clasped comfortably behind his head like a tiny couch potato.
It isn’t fair to say Ryan has grown from a teeny to a tweeny couch potato but he sure follows a clock that looks different from mine. Parent teacher conferences about time issues started in pre-school but when first grade and soccer practice started I saw this problem was going to carry over from classroom to the field. Ryan enjoys school and even though his assignments were usually late he looked forward to learning something new every day. He also loved being part of the soccer team but it was obvious to us and the coach that he didn’t always feel the need to run after the ball with the other kids. He spent a few years being a good sport as a defender but never fully understood why he didn’t get to play one of the goal scoring positions. When it was time to look for a new sport my wish list shrank to two items; physical activity and the chance to learn at his own pace. I quietly hoped that if he was happy and enjoyed regular exercise he would be more focused in the classroom.
Swimming lessons were our next choice. We live close to Puget Sound and love to boat and kayak with family so learning how to swim and respecting your limits in the water is important. We spent a few years at local pools and while I appreciated the fact he was learning water safety the only time he looked like he was enjoying himself was after class. Again, not really what we were looking for.
In second grade Ryan asked to try Taekwon-Do. I’ll never forget his smile during that first class and I’m happy to report he is still smiling four years later. I confess I spent many early classes flinching after each punch and kick. Aren’t we supposed to teach kids not to fight? Talking to his teacher helped me understand that the practice of Taekwon-Do is about much more than kicking and punching. It also requires self-discipline, strength, physical conditioning, respect and yes, focus. Finally, everything we were looking for. Ryan’s goal is to earn his Black Belt before starting high school and his pace is right on track. He still has some tough days managing school projects but I see improvement every year and sometimes, during a long homework assignment, I hear him quietly reciting the tenets of Taekwon-Do.
Our Taekwon-Do school allows kids ages 10 and up to attempt one board break as part of the test for their advanced belts. Ryan’s first chance at the board didn’t go as planned but he handled the disappointment well and worked hard to kick through it the next time. When he received a new testing invitation last fall he was ready. Check out his success below!
I am so happy he has found an activity that feels right and I love how the basic principles of Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit are incorporated into every lesson.