Entering the karate school, it was crowded and there were many students Riley didn't know. She started whining, then buried herself into me and would not look up. Then she began crying, really crying, loudly. We went into the hall, and she shrieked. Huge tears ran down her face.
"What if they make fun of me? What if those big kids laugh at me?"
"Your teacher would never let that happen, Riley."
She looked unconvinced.
We found her teacher, and she promised Riley no one would laugh at her.
The warm-ups started and it was all too much. Riley got loud again.
Her teacher said we could wait in her office, and Riley could just come out to do her form when it was her turn.
In the office, we read books, we did deep breathing, we did a family circle where each person takes a turn standing in the center, and the people on the outside have to say what they like about the person in the middle. We read more books. We did push ups and sit ups.
Then it was Riley's turn.
We went into the gym, to the edge of the mat, and Riley started to squeak, again burying her head into me.
Silence in the room.
Uncomfortable silence, as Riley stayed glued to my side.
I took a breath and said to the teacher and the room,
"Riley is afraid people will laugh at her."
Her teacher stepped up and said,
"NO WAY JOSE. This is a safe place." Then with authority, "Riley take your place."
And she did!
She walked out, head down.
But when the teacher gave the command, my little girl looked up and did her form. She did it with great and powerful punches! She remembered her ki-ups! She was determined. She was incredible. Three instructors (two of whom she'd never seen before in her life) gave her gentle feedback, and asked her to do it again, AND SHE DID!
After, instead of sitting back down on the line with the rest of her classmates, she scuttled back into the teacher's office,and shut the door. We stayed in there with her for a while, and finally she was able to come back out and observe some of the other kids testing.
The instructors said respect was the most important thing in karate. Not forms. Not anything else. Respect underlies it all.
Riley respected herself today. She took good care of herself. She expressed her fears. She bravely went out and performed. She quietly watched her classmates and cheered them when they finished.
Outside, HT presented her with a small bouquet of little pink flowers. She grinned. Her first flowers, ever.
Seth deserves his own metal for sitting through the whole thing.
We won't know for sure until December,
but in my opinion,
she earned her yellow stripe.