Today is the first day of first grade. My baby girl is growing up! Next thing we know, she’ll be graduating high school and then off to college.
Little K started gymnastics last week. As I sat there watching the 6 and 7 year olds practice tumbling, hula hooping on the balance beam, swinging from the uneven bars, and running and jumping off the platform for the vault, a children’s karate class began to assemble.
When my sister Brina was in 4th grade, she began taking karate. A few years later, my mother began taking the class with her. A few years after that, I started karate, too. I continued with karate until the summer of 2005 when I got pregnant with Little K. After that, the heat and stress became too much and I was no longer able to keep up with the exercises. I was about two months away from testing for my adult brown belt. My mother and sister continued for two more years, each of them reaching second degree black and teaching their own group of kids.
I was so proud of us girls; we were tough. It didn’t matter if we weren’t popular or the prettiest girls in school – we were strong. We had learned about perseverance, determination, strength, and discipline. We were more than the top girls in the class – we WERE the top of the class. We sparred with the boys and won as many matches as we lost. Sensei learned not to soften his blows when testing our stances or kata. We went to coed tournaments and always placed. At one point, I made us shirts that said “I Hit Like A Girl” with a silhouette of a woman in her gi, throwing a high kick. J At the height of classes, I was at the dojo for five hours each week; Mom and Brina were there for seven so they could teach. When we weren’t in class, I would practice my kata at home, asking for notes and testing each move in order to perfect the exercise. We bonded over sweat, blood, and the euphoria of learning what we were capable of. I absolutely love remembering our time together.
Back to last Thursday, sitting in the gym. I saw the kids go by in their gis, some carrying weapons and others with sparring gear. I listened to them practice, counting to ten in Japanese and calling out “Ki-Yah!” And I looked at my girl on the gymnastics floor…
I wouldn’t change a thing. She is out there, working hard, and being true to herself. Little K isn’t ready for karate; she may never be. But she’s learning how to control her body, pushing herself to try new things, working up a sweat, using muscles she hasn’t used before, and having a great time.
If she continues with gymnastics, she will have a lot to overcome. For one, she is already very tall for her age; she is within a foot of the height of the best gymnasts and she’s only six years old. For another, both sides of her family have struggled with keeping off weight. And third, gymnastics is an expensive and time-consuming sport. We place a higher value on family time and church than extra-curricular activities in our home.
But we’ll see how it goes. Maybe she will love gymnastics and we will decide to add a Saturday morning class next year. Maybe she will decide this isn’t for her and try girl scouts next year. Maybe she’ll see the karate class and give that a shot.
I have dreams for her, it’s true. Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I can’t wait to get her into piano and voice lessons. I want her to join the choir, to learn to play an instrument, to love show tunes and opera… But that is who I am.
At the end of the day, all I want her to be is who God made her.