Sensei Teasing has loomed larger than life in John's mind. There is one judo class left, and last night John couldn't sleep for thinking about it.
"Do I have to go?" he asked. "I really, really don't want to."
And he doesn't. His face is so serious when he talks about not wanting to go. "Maybe I could just go for warm-ups. Just for the exercises. And then leave before we have to fight each other."
Then, "Why did you have to talk me into judo?"
We talked for about 20 minutes about finishing what you start, and hard work, and being brave, and what it means to practice and learn. And it all rang hollow, because at the end of it, John kept saying, "I know. But thinking about it just makes me feel very small."
He sat for awhile and then said, "Mom, did anything ever happen to you that made you feel small?"
That's the hard part of parenting. It's not getting John to go to what might be the last judo class of his life. It's realizing that this tiny issue in John's life is the first of many where he will feel small. Realizing that this might be one of the easier instances, because no one is trying to make him feel small -- it's just happening. Remembering all the times in my life when I've felt small, and how as you get older it's because someone wants you to feel small.
It's not a crisis. But it is hard to see how John's big heart is open to stomping. How to we protect it and strengthen it and toughen it and nurture it all at the same time?