Monday, May 24, 2010

The Green Stripe of Courage

Nathan has been taking karate, and it's been a boon for him. It has given him things that I cannot accurately describe. It's just GOOD, in so many facets. Today, he was more hyper than usual when going to class. I was a little anxious that he'd be bouncing like a super ball all over the dojo. Tashi Mark was teaching and he is fun and engaging, but is no nonsense. At the beginning of class, he made Nate do 10 push ups, then 10 crunches, then 2 laps around the dojo. More kids trickled in (late, I might add!) and they got to going over some routines. 

At one point, they were asked to do 10 kicks to the bag from each leg. Nate did this, but on his time. He counted to make sure he was doing the right number, he kicked that bag like it was a rabid werewolf with a loud KI AI! All of the kids finished before he did, but it didn't phase him. The kid infront of him sneered and said, "You're last, neener neener". Nathan did his best King Cobra imitation and puffed up and curled his shoulders like he was ready to choke the kid to death. I wanted to choke that kid to death.  He kept his cool, which surprised me. Even when the kid kept doing it, Nathan didn't care. 

Tashi had to leave the room and the students were to continue their routine. The obnoxious one had an older brother and they liked to kick and wrestle each other, with NO regard to who was around them. Again, this would normally rattle Nathan, but he was taking it in stride. 

At the end of class, Nathan was given a green tape stripe on his belt, which indicates effort. In addition, Nathan won Black Belt of the Day. I couldn't have been more proud. (I wish I had a picture!) I always encourage Nate to try. I want to see his effort. I want to see the work. 

Work? Please. He was a MACHINE today. He puts every ounce of energy into his karate. This is the first activity that has given him purpose, focus and drive. He wants to do it, he looks forward to it. He remembered several routines without prompting. It's amazing.

In a world where he normally struggles with organized sports, where the rules can be hazy and people always don't play fair (including Nate), he excels at this. The rules are simple and precise, the work is tough but is very rewarding. He has tangible and visual reminders of his dedication and effort. I think that is huge to him. And it's huge to me. I marvel at his willingness to try, which is what I have been working on with him for a very long time. He is more open to attempt things, to make mistakes, to not be perfect the first time every time. I think he's starting to get an inkling that he is not perfect, and neither is anyone else. 

I revel in his imperfectness, as I revel in mine. The world is much more interesting when something stands out in the vacuum of conformity. I think I said to my father once, " I have to rebel." But it's more than that. It's ingrained in me to do my own thing, to follow that voice in my heart. I sometimes crow that I have a "special kind of crazy". And I do. And it's not a negative thing. It's part of my charming idiosyncratic nature. 

I know some of that has rubbed off on Nate. But he still needs to be his own person. Part of helping him through that identity work is part of being a parent. It's a little more tricky with an aspie, but we'll get there.

Like with all things, the more we practice, the better we will become. 

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. My 4 year old is desperate to do karate like his big brother did, but I've been holding off because I'm nervous about the other kids, the teasing, etc. (even though the instructors have 2 autistic kids of their own, I'm always worried about his behavior and lack of understanding of respect for authority). You've pointed out the strengths that karate has that I didn't even think about. I'll be re-thinking this. thank you.

  2. That was very powerful and extremely touching. GO NATE!

  3. @alysia: You are most welcome. I was wary, too, at first, but this dojo has worked with kids with autism, and I personally know the Tashi so I know he can handle whatever Nate can dish out. :) And with any activity, you never know until you try a few times, so I am glad that I may have opened a previously closed door. :)