I told myself that when I started this page that I would write after every single class. Today’s post ended up being a little more personal and a little less BJJ. Maybe it’s more than anyone who actually reads this stuff wants to know about us but I’m going to write it anyway.
Yesterday, I don’t know which was tougher, jiu-jitsu or parenting.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that both my youngest son and I have some major struggles with shyness and social situations. Yesterday was a rough one for him and in the process, me too. It was also his 8th birthday.
In the kids jiu-jitsu class they do a birthday “choke or throw.” The birthday boy/girl gets to stand front and center as each kid in the class comes forward and gets to decide if they want to choke or throw them. Both of my kids love this. The second they find out that it is someone’s birthday their faces light up with mischievous grins as they plot and plan what they might do. It’s such a fun moment for them.
I never really thought out how this would go when Jackson was on the receiving end of the choke or throw until the last week. Approaching this I could see that we kind have two hurdles for him. The actual choking and throwing and then the part about being in the spotlight. We had a few pep talks about it in the days leading up to his birthday but he has made so much progress and is doing so well that I really didn’t think it would be an issue.
I was wrong. It was.
The go-to for Jackson when he gets scared or embarrassed is escaping. He relies on pain/sickness/injury as an excuse. For years he would tell us he had a stomach ache and for years I was terrified that he actually did have a stomach ache, but I couldn’t believe him because he had used it for an excuse to escape for so long. That’s kind of a scary situation when you can’t tell if he really is hurt or if he’s just embarrassed. I’m terrified that one day he is going to be hurt and I won’t believe him.
Yesterday it was a headache, and we could clearly see that it was his escaping plan for the day. He cried almost the whole class. He held his forehead, rubbed his eyes, and winced in pain as if it was the worst headache in the history of headaches.
I was stuck between two totally different points of view.
On one side I know exactly how he feels. I feel the exact same way all the time. It’s awful. All you can think is “I can’t do this, I have to get out of here.” It dominates your thoughts so much that you start to panic. Eventually in that panic you have forgotten what it is that you are scared of and have focused solely on getting out. You don’t want to cry in front of everyone because that will only bring more attention to you but you have so much anxiety and fear running through you that you can’t help it.
The part of me that has been there, that understands this part of him like no one else in this world ever will, wanted so badly to run over to him, scoop him up, comfort him, and let him escape. It’s one thing if you think your kid is just being a brat, it’s a whole other when you understand the deep struggle he is going through. It’s not easy to watch.
Then, on the other side, I know that escaping and letting him give into his fears is never going to help him learn how to deal with this. I know that the best thing we can do is not let him escape, let him see that what he is so scared of isn’t going to be scary at all or at least not as bad as he thinks it’s going to be. Each time we have moments like this where he is scared but faces his fears, the challenge of it and the realization that it wasn’t that bad always builds his confidence. Each step towards his fears results in a more courageous and confident kid. And, we can see it each time.
I like to think that I’m a good parent with the best intentions for my kids, but I didn’t feel like that yesterday. Stuck in between those two points of view resulted in me stuck in my panic and anxiety mode which in turn makes me pretty selfish.
Eventually, the more he cried, the more I got embarrassed. The more I got embarrassed the more I wanted to escape. The more I wanted to escape the more I got frustrated with him. That kid relies on me to be his bravery buddy. The one who helps him get through these situations. I couldn’t help him because I was getting stuck in my own head.
I feel like failed him.
Emotional/mental handicaps are rough. People with depression, anxiety, social fears, shyness, etc. they don’t have a clear issue that you can physically see. You don’t understand why they can’t do certain things that might be easy for other people. It’s not like a broken leg that is visible. We are broken on the inside. So, while we look completely normal on the outside, inside we are a mess. We fight wars in our head almost everyday that most people in our lives will never know about.
By the time his class was over I was mentally fried. I fought a war in my head for my son and then I fought a war in my head for myself. I feel like I lost both.
When it came time for the adult jiu-jitsu class all I wanted to do was escape. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t retain any information. I couldn’t do a single step without getting frustrated at myself. On top of that I was getting frustrated with myself for getting upset that my son wanted to escape and I was doing the exact same thing. I made him face his fears (and he loved the birthday choke and throw) and I couldn’t do it myself.
Talk about being a hypocrite.
I don’t ever want my son and I to rely on our issues as excuses not to do things. I don’t want us to live a life barricaded in our heads because of silly made up fears that we think we can’t get past. I don’t ever want anyone else to take it easy on us or give us special treatment because we are scared.
I want us to learn to be brave in every step we take. To face our fears with courage and confidence. I refuse to give up on either one of us and I know that we are capable of overcoming our fears. One day we will look back and ask ourselves, “What were we so afraid of?”
I can’t change how we both handled our fears on a day that has passed. Yesterday was a failure. Today we learn from it so that it doesn’t happen that way again.