She Didn’t Have to Be


My five and a half year old daughter has a lot of interests.

My husband and I do our best to let her try them out. In the last two and a half years, she’s played soccer, tee ball, taken swimming lessons, and started weekly gymnastics classes. When she eagerly came home from preschool recently and announced she wanted to take karate, to work on her “ninja moves,” we quickly started working to find a way to facilitate this interest. After two one-on-one sessions with the school’s instructor, it was time for her first class.

Our girl is very shy when it comes to starting new things.

We’ve discovered she has a “warming up” period that needs to occur in order for her to enjoy what she’s doing. This may be achieved by arriving early to spend time with the instructor or by becoming more familiar with the space. We arrived for the class and she immediately got nervous. We put her uniform on and attempted to send her over with the other kids so they could get started. She wouldn’t budge.

I chose to introduce my daughter and myself to a mom seated in front of us, whose daughter was also getting ready for class. The girl had been enrolled for nearly three years, starting at the same age that our daughter is now, and would ultimately be graduating with her black belt. This new mom friend immediately took an interest in our daughter, sensing her nerves, and encouraged her daughter to help us out during class. The girl walked our daughter over to the other kids in class and stayed with her through the entire lesson, even if it meant moving from one side of the room to the other so they could remain together. At one point, we looked up and saw she was hugging and laughing with our daughter.

This girl didn’t have to take our daughter under her wing. She didn’t have to be so kind to her, willingly showing her the ropes and making sure she was doing okay. But she did.

She was genuinely kind and concerned for our girl and wanted her to feel comfortable. For this, we will be forever grateful. I can only hope this experience is foreshadowing for the date in August when our daughter starts kindergarten. Excitement for her is mixed with my own anxiety about what the future holds. My daughter excels in social situations, once she’s comfortable of course. She’s been in daycare since the age of 15 months and easily makes friends. She is compassionate, gentle, and hilarious after she is familiar with a place and the people in it. I pray that the spirit of the eight-year-old girl who was so sweet to her in karate is also found in teachers, friends, and helpers along the way in our new journey.

So one day, our girl can be the one who someone says “didn’t have to be” but provided much-needed guidance at precisely the right moment.


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