Kudos to the unfit mother
Friday evening, I walked into my daughter's dojo carrying the baby in her car seat as usual, only to be greeted by an overly enthusiastic nine year old leaping up and down like a kangaroo. Aye aye aye. I had forgotten. Tonight was the night parents were invited to train alongside their little ones. And it was too late to sneak back downstairs to the magazines.
Um. Ok.
I looked around the room helplessly, trying to find a way out.
As long as L. E. Fant is quiet.
That surely wouldn't take long. She is a good baby, and generally quite content during karate. But she also usually has me to play with and hand her crackers. So we began.

From watching my daughter for two years, I knew more or less what was expected. I knew the stances, the bowing, the kiais. In my head at least. We began with taiso, or the warm up exercises. Jumping jacks were ok. So was the stretching. But then that insolent little kid leading us had to call for push ups.

Even when I was fit, I couldn't do a push up. Now? I was risking serious bodily injury. As I lowered myself to the floor, I glanced back at the baby. Traitor. She was playing happily with the corner of the car seat. Giggling even.

So I started while the boy in the front called the count.

Itch. I laid on the floor and struggled back up.
Ni! Again. This time a little slower.
San! I was still coming up from ni.
Shi! I went down. I realized with slight panic that they normally go to twenty.
Go! Already to five, but I had only done three. Whose counting, right?
Rok! I felt my stubbornness kicking in. I was not going to simply flop on the floor and wait for it to be over.
Shich! My arms began to shake.
Hach! All I really was thinking about was not flopping on the floor.
Kyuu! Breathe. Don't forget to breathe.
Juu! And the sensei must have taken pity on me. "That's enough," he instructed the boy.

And we bowed. And lined up. We were to practice stances.

None of the various stances look that hard while you are sitting at the back of a dojo playing with a baby. The kids stand there, listen and occasionally get reprimanded for sloppy stances. I've watched them make the stances for two years. I have made them myself at home while playing with my daughter.

But then I stood there in a front stance while sensei instructed us on the history of the katas. I had never noticed how much he talked during class until I stood there, legs quivering with the strain wondering at what point my body would overrule my determination and simply collapse to the floor.

And what was that defiant baby doing, anyway? Batting away at her mirror?
And we turned to go the other direction. For that I was thankful. My muscles were tired, but at least now I could wear out different muscles. Up and down the floor we went, with each exercise testing my mental strength.

I would not give up. I would listen intently for a cry. But I would not give up.

I would not collapse to the ground, no matter how much my legs began to shake. I would grow impatient with that incredibly patient baby of mine. But I would not collapse.

Didn't she know she was still sick?

Then came back stance. I already knew that was a tough stance. I couldn't stand in it very long at home. And sensei talked. And talked. Explaining stances and how certain moves have changed over time. I focused on trying to relax my muscles as they began to spasm. And then it came. A small fuss. A glimmer of hope. She calmed herself, but I regained hope that the torture would soon be over.

Then fudo dachi. Oh this is so not a fun stance. I watch the kids' legs shake during this one. They have competitions to see who can do it the longest. My daughter often wins. I was hoping to make it through the first explanation. It involves standing with legs spread apart and then bending the knees. Toes facing forward, heels in and knees out. It takes all of five seconds to know pain. See. Look at this picture:

It is my daughter doing a kiba dachi which is essentially the same stance. You are just at an angle for fudo dachi.

Sudden panic gripped me. L. E. Fant hadn't put herself to sleep, had she?

I tried to focus. To listen to sensei even. But every muscle in my body was rebelling against the unaccustomed exercise. The unfamiliar stances being held for such lengths of time. I fully believed sensei's revelation that many masters of the sport were quite muscular from the isometric quality of the workouts alone. But I wasn't them. I chase small children around all day. I walk and dance and hop around with the children. I do not take these unfamiliar stances and try to hold them for minutes at a time.

And after 45 minutes of torture, testing the limits of my physical and mental capabilities, little L. E. Fant finally had enough. That rising crescendo of a baby whose fuss is turning into a full cry finally came.

And it was never so welcome as just then.