Time to Do, Time to Be (dobedobedo)

 

Time

Do Be Do Be Do

The clock is ticking.

My son is in Fifth grade and part of the fifth grade experience at his school is to play on two team sports during the year. He shall receive the team experience one way or the other. M-ito enjoys playing soccer but it is not, at this point in his life, his thing. Other sports are, though they’re mostly individual sports so in some ways I’m glad he’s playing a team sport so he gets the experience. His life, I hope, will be richer for it.

Team sports were a big part of my growing up so I see their value (even if I also see their horror – oh the horror!).

What this means is this summer I had a fatherhood crisis of sorts. Because I could see it coming. M-ito would be playing games during the week in addition to his usual after-school activities (taekwondo, art, play). Then back in June my son said…

M-ito – Why do you work all the time?

Me – I don’t work all the time.

M-ito – Yes you do. Even on vacation.

Me – Oh.

Mom-ita – Sage nod of her head.

What do I work at besides attempting to be a dad and partner to my wife? My day job as a Director of Training at a not-for-profit in Manhattan. I do some consulting work in the same field also. I teach yoga two-three classes a week. I write when I can (these days during lunch) and try to keep up with the marketing of my book.

How was I going to make time to see games? I didn’t know.

I’d stopped teaching stage fencing a few years before, because I didn’t have time. I still miss that very much. Then I started teaching yoga. I know, I know. It’s a long story for another time. But I did teacher training and started teaching when M-ito was 4. Five and a half years of teaching later…

Last one in, first one out. It was simple, really. Just like an accounting system.

It’s Alive!

Young Frankenstein PosterSo picture the movie, Young Frankenstein, with Gene Wilder (who used to be the fencing teacher at HB Studio, where I taught under Joe Daly’s supervision) as the monster comes alive and he shouts, “It’s alive!”

We finally saw pictures of M-ito on the camp website. The first two arrived on day four. Four days of combing the photo gallery waiting to see a picture with his mug on it. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

The first two pictures were blurry but I swear he was smiling in one. Either that or it was gas. He was swimming in the lake in either case. I called the camp on day five and said I wanted to speak to his counselor and find out what was going on. Was he okay? Is he having a hard time? Was that really a picture of him I saw or a blurry image of someone else? The staff were very nice and said they would talk to his unit leader and call us back with a report later that day.

At four they hadn’t called me back yet and I called from AMTRAK on my way back from DC. The unit leader was right there so I got to speak to him on the phone.

M-ito is doing fine. He had  a rough first night, but nowhere near as rough a night as some others had had (just what does that mean?). They roasted marshmallows together at the campfire that night as a way to bond and cope with first night loneliness. Since then he’s been active, seems happy, is making friends, and has settled in.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

Twelve pictures of him on Friday. Clear images at arts and crafts. Two with big smiles.

I’m doing okay. Mom-ita is fine. M-ito has settled in. Today is day seven. Half way home. We pick him up from his adventure on Saturday, next week.

Inga: “Put… ze candle… back!”

 

A Day of Knights Part 2: The Search for Swords and Black Knights

I found nerf broadswords – the Marauder long sword. The nerf folks have different kinds of swords but they actually have a good looking broadsword (a two-handed sword, not a one handed sword) and I started collecting them. I bought a pair for M-ito and me. Then we tried them out in the apartment a few times. We didn’t break anything, amazingly, and because they are heavier than the regular size swords made by nerf, they are harder to swing around fast. So, though they are heavier, they are more difficult to use. I figured they would have  a lower accident potential. It’s still amazes me how I came up with that calculation.

I thought about using shields and contemplated garbage can lids of all sorts at Home Depot. I even thought about making them out of plywood, but that would have made things so much more complicated – and I’m no carpenter – this I know about myself. And I was trying to keep things simple. That plus I tried out the regular swords from nerf and they were much lighter than the broadswords and when M-ito and I played with them I got tagged a number of times on the hand and it hurt like the devil. I saw the potential for all kinds of face wounds and broken fingers. I figured I’d stick with the heavier and slower weapons. It would also tire them out. the swords were almost as big as the kids were. Besides shields would mean teaching them a whole different skill set – both sword and shield. Broadsword would require concentration on only the weapon as attack and defense. I knew broadsword from stage combat class. I’d choreographed a one-act play I wrote with a broadsword fight in it. My friend DB knew broadsword too and we’d practiced together enough to know the ins and outs of it. And Austino and M-ito wanted broadsword. Shields would have to wait for another day of knights that concentrated on the shield wall.

So… nerf  broadswords it was.

My friend DB is an actor and all around good sport with a twinkle in his eye when it comes to things like teaching kids about swords. So I pitched it to him at breakfast one morning just as he was getting off work and I was going to work (he works the graveyard shift at a law firm doing legal proofreading). “Want to help me teach M-ito and a few of his friends how to use a broadsword?”

“What?”

“We’ll teach ’em the basic foot work, the cuts, the parries, give ’em an obstacle course to run through, then have a giant melee – kids against adults. What do you think?”

He only hesitated a moment. He looked out the diner window as if imagining the mayhem. “Sure,” he said, nodding.

“Austino’s father is going to help out also and we’ll get one more. So there’ll be four adults. We’ll be the black knights. We’ll get the kids all padded up with arm pads and bycicle helmets and then let them go at us.”

DB nodded, his smile getting bigger. He loves these kinds of things.

“And I want you and me to show them a short fight with the real swords. Then I’ll do some choreography with each of them so they get to try the real ones out. We’ll rehearse a couple of times before-hand, if you can spare the time.”

“Yeah, we’d better,” he said.

“Then you’re in?”

He nodded.

Day of Knights

Let the Mayhem Begin!

It would be two months before we picked a day but I had my players and the beginnings of a plan.

A Day of Knights: Part 1, The Idea

Knights

None shall pass!

It started as a simple question from the back seat of the car on the way in to school. M-ito and Austino  were sitting in the back seat and talking about farts and other such kinds of things when Austino asked, “I wonder what it would be like to use a real broadsword?”

“It’s heavy,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I’ve used a real broadsword and it’s heavy. As a matter of fact if you want some day I’ll show you.”

“Okay.”

And that was it. This was back in the winter, probably early February.

“I’m serious,” I said. “We could have a day of knights and I could show you guys how to use broadswords and let you use a real one. I have two. Would you guys like that? A day of knights?”

“Yeah,” they both said.

The conversation went on to other important things, like how big a catapult would you need to take out the house across the street, that kind of thing. But I remembered what they said and it started my mind to thinking. A day of knights. I’d have to call my friend DB, an actor and fellow stage-combatant who knows broadswords and kids. This would be cool. The idea started to percolate. Every week for the next two months I kept the idea alive, reminding the boys that I was going to do it… some day when the weather got warmer. I don’t know if they believed me – or at least I know my son did. But I began planning in my mind and collecting what I was going to need. The first thing I’d need were broadswords… not the real ones as I had two of those already. But something the kids could use that were the right size but wouldn’t cause permanent damage to anyone…

Boys Ballet – Hand Holding Hand Wringing

M-ito told me a week ago that he can’t wait until after his ballet recital so that he never has to go to class again. “I can’t wait,” he said. It made my heart sink.

I have some idea what it has been like for him, as a boy, to do ballet, but this really brought it home to me – how much I don’t know about his world. I know he has developed ways to allow himself to do ballet in school. I know that he has two lives on Wednesday afternoon – one in school and another in the music room during ballet class. I know that he walks the gauntlet from his room to the music room successfully – one floor, fifty feet and a flight of stairs – by wearing a black fencing t-shirt with a skeleton fencer on it over his leotard. He has to pass through groups of children in after-school who look up to see what he’s doing, what he’s wearing, where he’s going. I know a couple of kids (one bully in particular in the grade above) have made comments to him about his dancing ballet, but he doesn’t talk about it anymore. When he gets into the music room, the door is closed and he dances with three older girls in a small four person class. I know he enjoys dancing – I’ve seen his face and watched him in class. He is graceful and beautiful. I’ve seen him talk about the different moves he’s learned and he’s demonstrated them at home – with great excitement. But it’s been a while since he’s done that. I also know there are things he hasn’t talked about with us – that have gotten to him too. 

The recital is a public demonstration of his dancing abilities in front of his peers. It is an opening up of his behind-closed-doors dancing self. This week he finally told Mom-ita that it’s the hand-holding in the dance choreography that’s embarassing him and that he doesn’t want to do – that he can’t do it. He’s told us he doesn’t want to do the recital a couple of times already and we’ve averted his backing out by getting a detail here and there from him about why, that we can address so he’ll take one more step towards it. Right now hand holding is too much for him in front of his peers.

I was elected to talk to his dance teacher. She was upset when I told her M-ito’s plans not to take dance classes anymore after the recital. She understood right away what I was saying and what M-ito must be going through. I asked her if she could change the choreography so M-ito didn’t have to hold hands during the dance with one of his partners. She said she’d change it and talk to him about it. 

This afternoon when I came home, M-ito, for the first time in a month, showed me the “cool” moves they were doing in the recital instead of the hand-holding piece. He was excited about it and smiled while he showed me how he ended the sequence in “fifth position.”

Today we’re four weeks away from the recital, but one step closer.

Star Wars

Trying to explain to M-ito that episode IV is really the first Star Wars movie that was made has been challenging. “Which one is number one? Why didn’t that get made first? Which one should we see first?” are the questions that quickly rolled out. I decided to have him begin with episode IV as most of us did from back then because it just made sense to me. It was also the one with the least amount of epic violence in it, and the movie that is closest to my heart.

M-ito’s Lego love affair has taken him into the world of Obi-Wan Kanobi and Luke Skywalker. I think he’s too young for the futuristic western but he’s forging ahead, all six years of him. He’s built a good sized Lego Stormtrooper Walker and we’ve read five DK Star Wars level 1 and 2 reading books so he has some background on the world – the books being my idea on how to prep him for the movies.

So… over the last three nights, we sat down, M-ito half in my lap, curled up and frightened, one eye open one eye closed, a blanket covering us both in case we needed to hide from the movie’s images – and watched it from beginning to end. The only scene I skipped for him (and didn’t tell him) was the scene when Luke’s aunt and uncle are fried and their skeletons are shown toasting in front of their house. Powerful scene – but not for M-ito. It was bad enough that Obi-Wan disappears when Darth Vader cuts him in half. And that the ground is littered with dead Jawas. And that at least twelve rebel fighters get destroyed attacking the deathstar. And did I mention a whole planet? And the Death star. I’d better stop now. I can’t take the death toll. 

Let me be clear. I love this movie. I still remember seeing it when was a teenager, first row and in awe of the dream I was watching appear across the screen. But when your son is 6 and he wants to watch the same movie because all of his boy friends have seen it – it’s a whole ‘nother story. I guess I buckled to pressure. 

What I did was explain every plot point to M-ito before it happened. I told him what would happen to Obi-Wan – with the movie on pause. I told him what would happen at the end – right before the attack on the death star – with the movie on pause. And as long as he was prepared for the next plot point – movie on pause – he was okay. As we lay in bed afterwards, right before singing started, he told me that was the only way he could watch the film.

“It was too scary not to know,” he said.

I told him I wasn’t happy about all the violence in the movie and all the creatures, human and not human, that were killed.

“But not the important ones,” he told me. “As long as the important ones, like Han and Luke and Princess Leia, were okay it was all right.” I’m not sure if this is good or bad. It’s how I view violence on TV and in film also. It’s okay as long as it happens to a character that I don’t care about. How smart is my son?

“Do you think you’ll have nightmares tonight?” I asked.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. He went to bed that night in my arms, holding my hand next to his cheek, a big Star Wars smile on his face while I sang him Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

My father introduced me to The Mark of Zorro, The Seahawks, The Adventures of Don Juan, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gunga Din, and Beau Geste. Errol Flynn was my hero. He was my father’s hero also. I watched each film with my father at my side – waiting for the next sword fight or battle scene – yawning my way through the love scenes. When we get the chance – very rare these days – we still watch Jackie Chan films or martial arts epics together – modern adventure stories. He gave me the Pirates of the Caribbean for a gift two christmas’ back.

I have mixed feelings about the violence in Star Wars. But I am so glad M-ito and I saw the film together.