|Nobody messes with Agent M.|
One of my proudest parenting moments happened when my four and a half year old child got accidentally punched in the face.
My daughter, M, wants to be Perry the platypus (everyone’s favorite semi-aquatic crime fighting secret agent) when she grows up. Accordingly she spends a lot of time flailing around fighting imaginary bad guys. That’s all well and good except that in my more anxious moments I worry that all the play fighting might translate into an acceptance of violence as a go-to method of conflict resolution. Any moment now I could be receiving an irate call detailing my child’s Kill Bill style reaction to a disagreement about glitter glue.
There’s a dojo a quarter mile from our place so it occurred to me that karate might be a good way to give her love of beating stuff up a positive outlet. While not well versed in karate myself, I felt confident that there was something in its mission statement along the lines of “okay, practicing these moves is awesome and all but we don’t just go around punching people.”
The brochure said a kinder dojo membership was “an excellent introduction to the karate environment for ages 3-7 through games which enhance the ability to follow directions, physical coordination, and mental focus.” M was super-psyched and the moment I read “enhance the ability to follow directions” I was totally on board.
In practice it turned out that “ages 3-7” meant a dozen burly 6 and 7 year old boys who are really into army guys and one small four and a half year old girl who likes to make platypus noises. “The karate environment” meant very patient black belts supervising kids engaging in such activities as yelling enthusiastically in Japanese and pummeling a pad held by instructors.
Punching while being encouraged to shout is very exciting stuff. So exciting, in fact, that one of the brawnier seven year olds got so into it he closed his eyes and, instead of hitting the pad the instructor was holding, sucker punched my daughter in the face.
M’s head snapped to the side so fast I could see her cheeks catch up with her skull. I started to panic. Obviously she’d never want to show up at karate again and we’d be stuck with an unused kinder dojo membership, People of Wal-Mart teeth, and the knowledge that we should have spent the dojo money on something intelligent like better dental insurance. Why did I channel her love for Perry the platypus into karate instead of some kind of monotreme rescue program?
M slowly turned her head around, eyes narrowed like a cross between Clint Eastwood and a really pissed off Cindy Loo Who. The face-puncher and the karate instructor gulped. She ran her tongue over her top teeth, cocked her head to the side, and clearly enunciating every word said, “We. Don’t. Hit. People. KEVIN.”
Kevin, hitter of small girls, quickly apologized. The instructor sighed audibly and gave him a mini-lecture on discipline and non-violence. M took her turn wailing on the pad before happily moving on to do sit ups as well as can be expected from a four and a half year old with a toddler-esque giant lollipop head.
HA! Take that, potentially horrible situation! My daughter wasn’t intimidated by being surrounded by older, stronger face punchers. No, sir. She was clear minded and resilient under pressure. If she could handle getting accidentally clocked in the face by Hulk Jr., then imagine how well she’ll handle non-face-punch related obstacles.
Clearly this was all due to my empowering mothering skills. She won karate. I won parenting. Best. Platypus related morning. EVER.
That afternoon M went boneless in front of the escalator at Nordstrom while half the store looked on in disapproval because she was afraid that the jagged front part of the escalator steps would shave off her toes.
So possibly I was reading too much into her encounter with Kevin.
Still, when my stomach starts to knot at the thought of her venturing out onto the mean streets of kindergarten or when she encounters another escalator of death we’ll both be able to remember the time she quelled a face puncher with a look, picked herself up, and kept right on going. Perry the platypus would be so proud.