For the past year or so, my husband and I have tried to find an activity that can hold my five year old son’s interest and attention. We have tried several sports, martial arts, and offered music, theater, and art lessons, but nothing seemed to stick. That is, until he was introduced to Capoeira, a fast-paced combination of all of those things.
For those who are not familiar, Wikipedia defines Capoeira as “an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. It was developed in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century. It is known for its quick and complex maneuvers, predominantly using power, speed, and leverage across a wide variety of kicks, spins, and other techniques.”
There are several things about Capoeira that seem to work well for him. First, is that he cycles through various activities in just one hour; so, just as he is getting bored or tired, it is time to move on to the next thing. Second, the class is filled with individuals of all ages, and this means that there are several adults in the class. The adults in the class set a good example, do not feed into his craziness, and offer him the extra attention that he thrives off of. Lastly, given that Capoeira is a martial art, it provides a great deal of the discipline and structure that he needs.
The first several weeks of taking classes went extremely well. He was excited to go to class, listened reasonably well, followed most of the instructions, and felt a sense of pride about doing well in class. While I normally have to keep my distance when he is in an activity because he tends to act up more when I am around, I was able to actually sit close by and watch him. It felt good to see him learning new things and enjoying himself.
But, fast forward to last week: As I sat off to the side, I could hear his little voice throughout the entire class, hounding everyone to “watch me … look what I can do … hey, over here … I can do that AND this.” Also, he struggled to follow directions because he was so busy putting his own spin on the moves in an attempt to show off. I watched as everyone else in the class paid him attention when appropriate and ignored him when it was not, but it was annoying and borderline disruptive to the entire class. After class, I tried to talk with him about class-etiquette, but he could not have cared less.
Still embarrassed by his behavior, when we arrived to class this week, I talked with him before class about following directions and told him that I would watch him to see how well he did, so that he did not have to get everyone else’s attention. He agreed, and I sat in my usual spot to watch him. However, the instructor was running late, and shortly after the class started (being run by someone else until the instructor arrived), it was apparent that he had no intention of doing anything any differently than he had the week before. I watched for ten minutes as he shouted for attention and struggled to follow directions.
I was horrified. As a rule-follower myself and someone who is perhaps a little too concerned about my children’s behavior being seen as reflection of my parenting, it was difficult to watch as he completely disregarded everything that he was told to do. I worried that he was becoming so disruptive to the group that he would need to sit out or stop coming altogether.
Just then, the instructor came in. Before he joined class, I quickly apologized for the way my son was acting and told him to let me know if there was anything that I could/should do in this situation. And in my complete frustration, I followed up with a “He can just be so difficult some times!” And the instructor turned to me, smiled, and said, “That is why he is here.”
And, he is right. That is why he is there. That is exactly why the sports, and the music, and the dance, and the acrobatics alone did not work for him before. He needed those things to be coupled with the structure and discipline that Capoeira offers him; and in an environment where he is really cared about.
So, I grabbed my book, and I moved to another location where I could not see or hear any of his antics, and from that quiet spot on the couch in the waiting area, I blissfully read all while telling myself that he was doing amazing things in class.
And, as we were leaving the studio after class, he shouted, “Bye Capoeira, I’ll miss you!”
Thank goodness for those who are patient with my son when I cannot be.