June 22, 2011

A kidless kids teacher

Without fail, the first thing anyone asks me upon hearing that I am a kids yoga teacher is: Do you have kids? What I’d secretly like to respond with is, “Does it matter?” But instead, I give a pat answer, coupled with a wink and a smile, “Not Yet!” That seems safe enough and it always puts an end to the conversation. Phew. Bullet dodged.

But does it matter? What if they found out I don’t want children? Would I lose credibility?  Do I need to be a parent to be a good teacher? I don’t think so–at least, I hope not!

I adore kids, but I like them best in 60 minute increments. In an hours time, I give those kids a life time of my love and energy. (And I mean that in a genuinely sweet and nurturing way, not in a creepy, “To Catch a Predator” kind of way.) But when the class is over, I’m happy to send them back to their rightful owners. I’ve given those kids my all–and I am ready for a nap.

Teaching kids yoga isn’t always rainbows and fairytales. It can get pretty hairy. Of course, some days are better than others. BUT kids can be tough: they can be loud, they might gang up on you, they point out all of your mistakes, and they don’t always listen. Those are the days that I picture myself as a cartoon character–with disheveled hair, glasses askew, and a red face running full steam ahead for the hills. I imagine this is how some parents (understandably) feel on certain days.

Parenting has got to be the hardest job in the world.  Since parents are their child’s greatest defender, their advocate, their disciplinarian, their everything, it comes as no surprise that dealing with parents can often prove to be the most challenging aspect of teaching yoga to kids.

This especially rings true when teaching children of yogis. I say this because it’s hard for the these parents to understand that kids yoga is very different from grown up yoga.  In kids yoga, practice doesn’t always make perfect. Practice offers experience.  The skill itself isn’t important, but the confidence being built is.  Too often I witness a parent suck the wind right out of their child’s yogic sail:

Child: Mom! Today we learned Tree pose! Watch me do it!

Mom: Great! Let’s see your tree!

Child: ok!!! (Child excitedly gets into the pose)

Mom: Ohhh. Bring your foot higher. Stay focused. Don’t move your arms. Keep your eyes on one spot. Better. Stand up taller. Better. Ohhh…You almost had it. Do it again.

Child: I don’t want to.

As Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh Roh.” So much for that kid ever wanting to do yoga again. My heart sinks.

These are often the same parents who drop all their kids off to yoga class, hoping that their “very mature” 5 year old can wiggle his way into a class designed for 7-9 year olds.    This tends to be a recipe for disaster. Teaching siblings is hard; they come to the mat with a dynamic and a relationship that can be hard to maneuver within a group setting. Yoga isn’t supposed to be competitive, but sibling relationships are. The only time I’ve had kids cry in class is when they are with their siblings.

And then there are the parents who sign their kids up for yoga as a last ditch effort to help them develop tools to deal with hyperactivity or social issues.  My heart aches for these parents. These are the folks that want to hear a good report after class. Even if a child isn’t on her best behavior, I always try to report back to the parents something awesome the child did. Sometimes, this is easier said than done–but I believe the kids (and their parents) deserve a good report. These are the parents I work hardest to please.

So, selfishly, I feel like I’ve got it made. I get the benefit of hanging out with cool kids, doing cool things without the responsibility of parenting. (Win!)  I am not sure I could be as enthusiastic or charismatic if I was caring for a family 24-7. But that’s just me.

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Laurie Jordan  |  Contribution: 1,400