Crouching Kitty, Hidden Frog

June’s been busy the past few days. She had a four-day weekend so we filled the time with play dates, three in all, two of which featured tea parties, and she also had a birthday party to attend. But what I want to write about is her first experience with public speaking and her new Kung Fu class.

Kindergarten Roundtable: Thursday

There was no kindergarten at June’s school Thursday and Friday of last week so next year’s kindergarten students could tour their classrooms and meet their future teachers.  June and Maggie had a six-hour play date on Thursday that began at our house and ended at Maggie’s– the idea was that Maggie’s work-at-home dad and I could both squeeze a little work into the day. After they played here and before they played at Maggie’s, I took the girls to the Purple School where they and Gabriella gave a presentation to the current Tracks class about what to expect from kindergarten.  June was looking forward to the talk. She and Maggie compared notes on what they might say beforehand and they both seemed excited to go back to preschool and be the experts. When we got to school Lesley and Andrea and P.J., the teacher’s aide, all greeted her warmly.

It was only about two minutes before she was to go on that June got cold feet.  She held tightly to my hand as she waited to begin.  Lesley arranged the three kindergarteners on chairs in front of the Tracks, who sat on the bench built into the wall and on the floor.  June spoke so softly at first that her answers were inaudible.  One of the Tracks complained that he couldn’t hear her.  Lesley asked what we do when someone speaks softly.  Be quiet and listen closely someone answered.  I suspect there’s a very quiet child in the class, because the answer sounded rehearsed. After a couple questions, however, June began to relax and speak in her normal voice and soon all three girls were answering questions and volunteering information about how they got to school, where they ate lunch and went to the bathroom, what their favorite part of school was.  June said hers was listening to the teacher read stories and doing her work.  “That’s a new one,” Lesley commented. Apparently gym, art and recess are popular answers.

It was nice to be back in the cozy atmosphere of the Purple School and to see the teachers and some familiar parents– Maggie’s dad and Gabriella’s dad of course, but also some Tracks parents I know.  The Eastern Fence Lizard (whom June met at camp last summer) was happy to see June, insisting she come back in to say goodbye to him once she had left the building.

Kung Fu Kitty: Saturday

“Look at what I’m wearing,” June said to Beth, who was in the shower. I’d advised June to wear something that would allow her to move easily because in the morning she had her first Kung Fu lesson and in the afternoon one of the Purple Pandas was having a basketball-themed birthday party. As it was being held in a church gym, I suspected they would actually play basketball at the party.

Beth peeked out of the shower to see June in her pink Hello Kitty pants and t-shirt.  This was not much of a surprise. Ever since her birthday, she wears this outfit (with or without a long-sleeved tee underneath) pretty much whenever it’s clean.

“You’re a Kung Fu kitty,” Beth exclaimed and June laughed.

June is allowed two activities per season and spring will be a science class and Kung Fu. She’s taking science because I let her choose one of several after-school activities at her school and a lot of her friends have been in the science class so she wanted to try it.  The same group that teaches it has a summer camp at the community college she might try that out next summer if she likes it.  (Noah went to that camp for years and loved it.)  Kung Fu, though, was entirely her idea.  She said she wanted to take karate and this was the closet thing I could find that was offered at a convenient time and place.

The Kung Fu class meets in the dance studio of the community center. It’s a room with a full-wall mirror, which is handy for watching your moves.  We were early and then the class was locked out of the room for a while so we were all waiting for a bit before class started.  The group consisted of eight kids, three girls and five boys, ranging in age from four or five years old to maybe nine or ten. At least three of the kids were returning students.

Once we were inside the room the teacher started off right away, without much in the way of introduction; he wove his comments throughout the class instead.  He taught them how to bow and had them pledge not to use what they learned in class against siblings or classmates, and never to harm any living thing except in the defense of other living things. He explained how you have to be calm to do Kung Fu– it was not all crazy kicks like they might have seen on television. Also, this would be Jamaican-style Kung Fu, he told them, not Chinese.  The instructor learned from his uncle, a Jamaican Kung Fu master, he said. I had no idea there was such a thing as Jamaican-style Kung Fu— but you learn something new every day.

The three returning students, two of whom are about to take their gold belt test, demonstrated their skills. Then everyone practiced some poses and moves. The teacher was a stern sort of character; two students had to sit out part of class for being too wiggly in the case of one girl, or for putting his hands in his pockets then rolling his eyes when asked to remove them in the case of one of the older boys. (That boy was out for the rest of class.)  It might not have been a good class for Noah when he was six and wiggly, but June excels at paying close attention and following directions. The teacher noticed this and said she was “a wise little one.” She’s also strong and flexible, so soon the teacher was saying she was “a natural” and asking if she’d ever taken a martial art before.  I said no, but that she’s had yoga.  And ballet, though I didn’t think to mention that at the time. I think both those activities probably helped her get off to a good start.

They had to try an exercise next, squatting like a frog and then lifting their feet off the floor and balancing on their palms.  One of the experienced students managed twenty seconds in this pose. Some kids couldn’t do it at all.  (I doubt I could.) June’s bare feet cleared the floor for a few seconds.  Later she said that was her favorite part.  They did some somersaults and practiced bowing again and class was over.  June was quite satisfied with her first day of Kung Fu.

She has more to anticipate, however.  After-school science starts next week.  The theme is forensics.  She is very excited to learn how to solve crimes and as always, I’m excited for her as she tries something new. I love to see her finding her voice and finding her strength.