Taking Mason to birthday parties makes me nervous. I don't mean the simple, two or three friends over for cake parties. I mean the huge rent a bounce house/paint pottery/build-a-bear/karate birthday parties. These parties often result in Mason standing at the front door begging to go home. He's usually uncomfortable in these large, noisy, lots of people settings. And that makes me uncomfortable.
Sometimes we just skip parties like this. I literally don't tell the kids they've been invited and we do something as a family instead. But recently -- for a very good playmate -- we chanced it. It was a Tae Kwon Do party. My children had not experienced martial arts before and I was curious how they would respond. In particular I wanted to see how Mason dealt with the experience.
First and foremost, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy was really loud and basically yelled everything he said. Boy did he have all eyes on him -- my boys included. Little Mason shrugged himself up straight and tall, sucked in his stomach as tight as possible, kept his chest lifted and arched. If I had to guess, I bet his butt was clenched.
Next, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy lined everyone up in rows by age or height or weight or willy-nilly. I don't know what his system was. But Cooper was in the back row and Mason was in the front row. I usually try to put them together. But Mason clearly did not need Cooper by his side.
Then, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy lead the kids in some kicking-punching-striking-ducking kind of moves. Mason did great! There was a little trouble with the breaking a board with your very own foot exercise. But Mason and Cooper both broke their boards, eventually.
There was only one activity that Mason would have no part in. Wearing a sparring helmet, strapping a huge pad to his belly, and charging an opponent. Cooper loved that. Mason would have rather eaten a rolley-poley.
Finally, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy had the kids line up in a single-file line and ask for their own cake and pizza. Mason usually crumbles in these on-the-spot, you-must-make-a-decision, and speak-for-yourself situations. I did not step in (neither did Cooper), and he did just fine. Even said, "Thank you"!
Mi favorita has recently given me some very good advice -- I don't know if it was intentional or not. She was describing how she felt about trying to control wether or not her twins were in the same class in school. And for her it was a matter of control. Control that clearly did not matter to her. She wasn't going to ask that they be placed together and she was going to see what happened and how they grew to deal with it. And an idea unfolded itself in my head. I can let life teach my children. I don't have to do everything. I don't have to control the situations that shape them. They can shape themselves in the situations they find themselves in.
That is not to say that I don't have a very big job. I have the job of preparing them, repairing them, and supporting them. But controlling them, limiting their choices, and even choosing for them -- in the name of protection -- is exhausting, fruitless, and cancerous.
And anyway, I think Mason just chose Tae Kwon Do. A good choice.