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Throwing Tantrums

On Friday afternoons I teach three back to back kids classes, starting with 3 and 4 year old beginners and ending with my most advanced 6-8 year olds, who are yellow belt and higher. Yesterday I had my group of 5 reviewing one of their old blue belt katas. About halfway through I stopped them and shook my head. "That was terrible."

One of my little yellow belts, a smart, skilled 7 year old boy named Lennon laughed out loud, his eyes wide, shocked. Did I really just say that?

"It is not my job to make you feel good," I explained. "It is my job to make you get better. If you got up there and did your best work but it wasn't perfect I would never call your kata terrible. But that kata that you guys just did was not your best. That was sloppy. I have seen you all do that same kata much, much better. I would be a bad teacher if you got up there and did a messy, lazy punch and I said "Good job!" You can do it much, much better. So do it."

They did the kata again.
It was good.
I told them so.

This class is my most advanced. They work hard and I am constantly telling them how proud of them I am. I have also been known to say things like "I do not care if you are tired today." and "You are not doing karate to make me happy, you are doing it for you."

I do not talk to my four year olds like that. But my older, more advanced kids already know that I love them. They know that I support them. They know that I am proud of them. They know that I will help them get through any difficulty they might be having. And they also know that I will not accept anything less than their very best effort, every time they come. They will work and I will not do that work for them. That is their job. My job is to teach the best class I can every single day.

Thursday morning I woke up in a terrible mood. At least five different parts of my body were hurting. I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It was a Netflix kind of day. So after dropping Maya off at school, I watched a movie. It was also a curl up under the covers and cry kind of day. So I did that for a little while.

Around 10:45 Matthew came in to tell me it was almost time to go to BJJ class.

"Not going."

"Yes you are."

"Noooo. Not going."
I got out of bed. He handed me my bag. I put a gi in it.

"NOT going."
I put my shoes on.

"Don't wanna."
Like a two year old. Really.

He handed me my coat. I literally stomped my feet on the floor a few times.

"Don't wanna go to class."
Pout. Stomp stomp.

By that point we were in the car and I was eating a banana.

I should point out that at some point during my curl up under the covers and cry morning, my lovely husband also said some wonderfully gentle and sympathetic things. There was some hugging.

But at 10:45 it was time to pick up my bag and go.
And at that moment it was not his job to make me feel good. He had another role to fill.

It goes without saying that I felt one hundred times better after taking class. I always do.

When you are young you assume a lot of things about love. You assume it is about presents. You assume it is about celebrating special days. You assume it is about cuddling and kissing. You assume it is about offering your partner support and encouragement. And it is. It is about all of these things. But loving someone is also about knowing when to push them, when to tell them to suck it up. It is about knowing when to say "I love you and I know you are miserable right now but here is your bag and here are your shoes and I will see you downstairs in five."

I can't say it was my best jiu jitsu class. But it was a hell of a lot better than I would have done under the covers.

So thank you Matthew.

Oh, and I know I said I am not too harsh with my four year olds. That is mostly true. But this morning one of my little ones stopped mid punch to tell me that he was hot. So the little guy next to him chimed in. "I'm hot too." "Me too!" "Yeah, I'm hot. And thirsty." (Because everything in 4 year old class is like a contagious plague.)

So I stopped punching and lay down on the floor.
No seriously, I did.
I told them that it was hot so we should stop karate and all lie down and go to sleep.

The first boy , who is named Eli, giggled at me.
"Kyoshi Jennifer, that's silly."

"Of course it is, Eli. Sometimes it is hot outside, right? What do we do when it is hot? We feel hot."

Then we fanned ourselves off with our hands for ten seconds and did some front snap kicks.
Because it is not my job to make them comfortable. It is my job to make them better.

On that note, while I was teaching Eli how to deal with global warming, my kid wrote a motivational book. Here is some of it. If you happen to be having a curl up under the covers and cry kind of day, maybe it will help.


  1. I loved everything you wrote. Seems like I'm having that kind of day today. Will call you later.


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