Both of my sons came out of the womb with a strong desire to disobey. It turns out that they are a lot more like their father than I first thought.
When my first son was learning how to stand up he would pull up on our furniture. Watching him slide over to the couch, reach his hands up and pull himself up made me and my wife smile. But when he slid over to the TV, reached his hands up and pulled himself up it made us panic.
At the time, our TV was the heavy, non-flat screen variety and it wasn’t on the most stable piece of furniture. So we made a rule. Our baby boy, the one who made us so proud by pulling himself up, wasn’t allowed to touch the TV. From then on, it seemed like all we ever did was tell him to stay away from the TV and all he ever did was try to get as close as he could.
It was a vicious cycle.
Toddler pulls up on TV.
Parent corrects toddler.
I was responsible for 90% of the crying my son did in those days. It made me feel terrible. Like he was going to grow up hating me. But I kept reminding myself to think long term. He was learning something even more important than how to stand up. Someday, we would all be better off for those hard lessons he was learning.
Someday came last night.
My son’s regular karate instructor wasn’t able to make it to class so he made arrangements for a replacement. The replacement instructor began class with a few basic stretches before things got weird.
He had the kids get down on their knees and close their eyes so that they could “empty their minds.” After that, he quickly taught a few strange principles and had the students repeat them after him. It turns out that our replacement instructor was a Taoist and he seemed determined to share that Taoism with the kids he was teaching.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Up until this point, all my son had ever learned from his original instructor was how to block, punch and remove a man’s heart with his bare hands. I made that last part up. The bare-handed heart removal technique doesn’t come until next year.
But now some guy I had never seen before was pushing a philosophy on my son that was directly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The parenting books I read before my son was born never said anything about this.
Obeying the instructor is a key component of any martial arts class. In this particular class, the instructor really wanted to make sure that the students were listening. And obeying.
“Do jumping jacks!”
“Stop. Now do push ups!”
And every kid in the class obeyed.
When class was winding down, the instructor gave a final command to the students.
He told them to bow down on their knees and close their eyes, just like he was doing. As soon as the command was given I broke the silence of the studio by calling out my son’s name.
He turned back to look at me.
I pointed at him and then motioned for him to come to me.
He obeyed instantly, running to me without hesitation.
While the rest of the class was emptying their minds, we were walking out the door.
It was then that I realized that this was the first of many contradictory voices my son will hear in his lifetime and it’s my job to teach him which one to listen to.
I didn’t sign my son up for karate because I wanted him to be a professional fighter. I signed him up because I thought that the discipline would help him to develop the confidence to stand up for himself.
Last night I saw that my son has already learned how to stand up.
Even when everyone else is kneeling.
I’ve never been more proud.