Thursday, December 24, 2009
I'm going to have to do something with this girl, I thought. She goes from calm and happy to Mount Vesuvius in under half a second, and then...you never know what she'll do. I looked down at my crotch, my fingers lightly touching the spot on my leg where contact had been made. That was close. And it would have, um, really hurt...
Silly me. A few months earlier, I had assumed that rugby would have been enough of an aggression channel for Red Bear (a.k.a Shortcake), my freckled, red-headed, pepperpot of a nine year old daughter. In reality, three hours of rugby each Sunday tended to calm her down for the rest of the day. But by the next day, she was back to normal. Usually sweet, friendly, and confident, but with a serious temper. So...I got her and Lady Lu horseriding lessons. But that wasn't enough, either. Obviously.
What had happened a few minutes earlier was just the latest indication of that. I had kicked the can for the third time in a row, freeing all of Red Bear's prisoners and thus forcing her to to have to count again while we all hid. But in the moment that I ran up and kicked it, the petite warrior queen had let out a primal shriek and let fly with a lightning quick Muay Thai-style roundhouse kick which had landed perilously close to my broncos.
"GEEZ! Red Bear! Control yourself!", I said. "Relax!". I started laughing because it was so unexpected and outrageous (I don't allow any hitting or kicking amongst the kids at all), but really...this sort of thing was getting serious. The explosions (mostly verbal) were fairly regular. She was so full of passion, spark, energy, fearlessness, so possessed by a kind of vivacious drive which would sometimes instantly explode into a kind of fury; it was so much a part of her, that she was going to have to learn how to channel it, control it, direct it. And now was the time. Soccer, rugby, horses, biking, rough play on the trampoline, taking her to the park all the time, nice calm discussions about how to handle frustrations, time-outs, occasionally barking at her when she started to lose it...all did a little bit, but she needed more. What else could I try?
Hmmmmmmm. Oh. Yes. Of course.
I called the gym the next day.
"Hello, 'Q' Gym, Sarah speaking", said the chipper-sounding girl.
"Hi Sarah. I have a question for you. I have a girl here who I think might like to try Mixed Martial Arts down there".
"Tell me about her", said Sarah.
This is not one word of a lie.
"Well, ummmm...she....". I stammered, and didn't really know where to begin, and then, it just sort of came out: "she...she has red hair".
Sarah started laughing. "Ohhhhhhh. Ha ha ha. A redhead!".
Sarah was still laughing. "I get it, yeah. And I love it. She'll be amazing. I want to work with her!". Thank God. Sarah understands about the red hair, I thought. This sounds promising.
The next Monday (this was the 14th of this month), I showed up at the Q MMA Gym with Red Bear, my seven year old son Sno-Cone, and my four year old son Trixta. Red Bear's hair looked absolutely wild, a huge mass of long, natural curls and waves, containing what seemed like every hue of red it was possible to have: blood red, candy apple red, carrot orange, Creamsicle orange, streaks of sunshine blonde. She looked like she could just have emerged from a cave somewhere in Denmark brandishing a giant sword, ready to join a Viking raid.
We wandered into the gym area after taking our shoes off, and were greeted by Sarah - who herself had reddish hair, and who I found out, had recently been ranked the number one bantamweight female MMA fighter in the world. Wow.
"Okay you guys", she said to the six or seven kids who were already there (we were about fifteen minutes early). "Grab some of those balls over there and start throwing them around. Start trying-" (again, this is not one word of a lie; this is the God's honest truth). She said, "start trying to hit the other kids in the face!".
In that moment, I fell in love with Sarah. Not really, but you know. I'm so sick of control freak school yard monitors telling my kids they're not allowed to throw pine cones, or snowballs, or rugby balls, or dirt clods, or wrestle, or do anything rambunctious, that I felt a surge of intoxicating, almost infatuating, adrenaline. The kids, for their part, seemed absolutely dumbstruck with amazement, like they couldn't believe what they'd just heard. For a split-second, they stared at each other. Then they started laughing and ran on to the mats, grabbing the mini beach balls and hurling them at each other, with a frenzied, wild abandon, laughing still.
This is completely awesome, I thought. Even Trixta was running around laughing, dodging and throwing the balls. And hell...I couldn't help it; I finally jumped in, grabbed a ball, and started playing myself, much to the delight of the kids.
After fifteen minutes of that, class officially started. For the next hour, Sarah led Red Bear, Sno-Cone (Trixta opted out of the official class), and the rest of the class through a series of punching, kicking, ducking and wrestling drills. One wrestling drill was similar to a Sumo match: two kids faced each other and tried to push each other outside the perimeter ring. Trixta and I watched Red Bear push one kid, then another, then another, then another, then another outside the ring. She didn't seem self-conscious or nervous at all. She seemed to really be enjoying herself, even though she was smaller than everyone there, even Sno-Cone, her younger brother. Maybe this will be her thing, I thought.
Time will tell whether Red Bear wants to stick with MMA. But I'll always enjoy the memory of watching her dive in, kick butt, and come out smiling. She is one special girl; and once she learns how to channel her passions, she will be unstoppable at whatever she puts her mind to. I can't wait to see that.