Monday, April 28, 2014

Changes and Challenges

We arrived at Kai’s boxing class on Saturday afternoon and found some changes. They had set up for a birthday party for the son of the founder of the organization that puts on these classes.

Outdoors, next to the gym, were two large inflatables where kids could bounce and slide. Tables were set up for pizza and soft drinks. It looked like it would be a fun time.

Kai was not happy.

I had received an email the evening before letting us know that there would be a birthday party after the boxing class. I didn’t realize that it would, in reality, supplant the boxing class. I hadn’t told Kai about this change in routine and he was not happy.

He wanted to box.

For a little while, the instructor grabbed a pair of boxing gloves and had some kids work on their punches. But it was apparent that most kids just wanted to get on with the party.

I was chatting with another parent but made my way over to Kai when I saw that he maintained his angry face.

I told him he could have some pizza. He refused, saying that he wanted to destroy the party.

I tried to stay positive, talking about how the inflatables looked fun. Eventually, the lure of the pizza was too much and he said he would have a piece. One volunteer girl came over and gently teased Kai, “I thought you were going to poison all the pizza.” He said he did but then he un-poisoned it. He asked me to get him a second piece.

And then went on the inflatables. He spent most of his time on the one where you climbed up from one side, slide down the other, and then walk around to do it all over again. He was laughing and laughing, pausing occasionally only to ask the time. His soccer game was later in the afternoon and he did not want to miss it.

His boxing instructor came over when he saw Kai laughing. He asked Kai if he was having a good time, and when Kai said he was, the instructor laughed and said “I knew it!” as Kai is often prone to starting off grumpy before ending up enjoying himself there.

The birthday cake came out just when it was time to leave for the soccer game. I offered to let Kai stay and have cake, but told him that we would be late for soccer if we did. The cake looked scrumptious, but he opted to leave.

When we arrived at his special needs soccer game, we found the coach was not there. Usually this coach divides up the players with the special needs kids on one team, and some of the volunteer kids serving as the opposition team ala the Washington Generals (of Harlem Globetrotters fame). Kai likes this setup because his team scores almost all of the goals and wins every game.

This week, though, with the coach not there, another parent took charge. She divided the teams differently, with the special needs kids separated onto two teams, assisted by the volunteer kids. The special needs kids would thus play against each other.

This had been the setup in years past, but not since the current coach took over last fall. Having the special needs kids split up worked out okay before when the kids’ abilities spanned a broad spectrum. But since last fall, Kai’s abilities have stood out, as other kids of his ability dropped out, leaving only the kids requiring assistance from the volunteer kids.

How that played out this week was that Kai got upset as the other team scored goals. He particularly got angry when the parent serving as his team’s goalie made no effort to block shots from the opposing team. He came over to the sideline, dumped out his water bottle and refused to play any longer. He said he wished he stayed for the birthday cake and said he never wanted to play soccer again.

I went over to talk to him. And while I understood how he felt, I didn’t like how he handled his frustration. But then again, perhaps I didn’t handle my own frustration too well, either.

When encouraging him to go back in and play did not work, I got stern with him. I told him that he wouldn’t be able to use the iPad if he did not go back out on the field and make an effort. He finally went, but mainly to yell at the parent who was the goalie. When I yelled at him that we would go, he said that he would play nicely.

He ran after the ball, and took it away from an opposing special needs child who needs a lot of help to kick the ball. Kai dribbled all the way down the field and scored, then looked for my approval as he had played hard as I had demanded.

I was frustrated, with him, the situation, but mostly myself.

This group is really great for the other kids, but I don’t think it is right for Kai any longer. I can’t ask him to go out there and try hard, but then have the result be that he dominates the game and doesn’t give the other kids a chance to kick the ball and score. What do I tell him, play hard only if the ball happens to come your way?

Finding a special needs activity that is right for your child can be difficult. Just because an activity has a ‘special needs’ label doesn’t make it right for every child with that label.

And so I think we will stop going to this activity. I hate to end on such a sour note. But I think that will be best, both for Kai as well as the other kids.


  1. Well, I'm glad the boxing party ended up being a success! Too bad about the soccer, but as you said, it isn't a good fit for Kai any longer, so upward and onward you must go!

    1. Yep, he would have been much happier if we stayed at the party. Oh well, time to learn and move on.

  2. I think you are absolutely correct. The soccer group is no longer a place for Kai, and for just the reasons you had cited. In a way, it is good to see Kai out grow his surroundings. I know how frustrating certain circumstances can be, but I still maintain that it is good to read of Kai's spunk and energy. He has gets frustrated because he has the drive to really try, to put his all into something. He wants everything to go as planned because he sees how things should be. This is something that many do not see. With just a little more introspection, he could use his drive to mold himself into an unstoppable man on a mission for success.

    I don't want to seem flippant with my remarks, but Kai is still so young. However, Kai has good fighting spirit. I think that with time and continued guidance, Kai will mature into a man with high drive. So long as he funnels his drive in the correct direction, he will become a success.

    1. I definitely see potential in Kai. The challenge will be for him to be able to channel his drive appropriately. Seeing a lot of progress, but still a lot of things to work on.


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