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5:44 a.m. - 2008-10-22

RETURN OF THE KARATE KID AND HIS SLOW, KITTY-LOVING ACCOMPLICE

Ever since I found out that my wife was pregnant with Andrew eight years ago, I wanted my son to be into Karate.

Karate teaches discipline, self-defense and turns kids into little portable board-breakers so that whenever you need a board broken ... WHOOMP! There it is!

Like if a tornado came through here and the house crumbled all around us. I could just say "Andrew, start whackin'" and in a few days he'd have cleared a path of broken boards and rescued us.

That alone is reason enough to have him enrolled.

About six months ago we found a place that caters to kids like him.

We stopped by to inquire about times and prices and stuff but they were closed.

And for some reason or another, we never went back there.

So naturally, this gives my wife something to hang over my head anytime there's a disagreement.

"Honey," I would say. "I'm not sure I want to go out to eat tonight. Let's just stay home. I'm exhausted."

"Oh, let's just stay home just like we stayed home instead of taking Andrew to that Karate place!"

"No ... I'm just really tired. It's been a long week for me."

"Andrew would be real tired too if he had been taking karate classes all along like you said you wanted him to do."

So after six months of this, on Monday I was on my way to pick Andrew up at school and passed by the Karate place.

A lightbulb went off and I did a U-turn and went back there.

I talked to the sensai or whatever she was and she said she'd be delighted to have Andrew attend a free class to see if he'd be interested in joining. She told me that several kids from his school would be there at 5 p.m. and to come back then.

No problem.

I picked Andrew up from school and told him that we were finally going to the karate school at 5 p.m.

"I don't want anybody to hit me," he pleaded.

I assured him nobody would hit him. He said he really didn't want to go and I told him we'd just watch unless he WANTED to get out there and try it.

We show up at 4:50 p.m. and there's a six week-old kitten running around when we get there. We were told that was the "Stranger Danger" kitten. Okay. Whatever THAT is.

The sensai knew of Andrew's Aspergers and while there were three new kids joining the class, she really took Andrew under her wing.

She taught Andrew how to salute the flag before entering the matted area.

And then, my dreams of watching my son someday help me escape from a crumbled house just slowly fell apart.

First off, there were NO kids from Andrew's school there. Trust me, he goes to a small enough school where I'd recognize 1 or 2 of the kids. These were all normal kids with visions of someday being Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

The sensai told the kids to run around the area in big circles.

Andrew, naturally, had to holler "WHOOOAAAA!!!" the entire time he ran and punctuate his run with the occasional "wipeout" on the floor. The sensai had to keep telling him to get up and keep running, something he was completely capable of. But he was more interested in trying to get people to laugh.

They then did their exercise routine. Jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.

I make no excuses for my son. He's not athletically inclined. I've seen his idea of a jumping jack. I would compare it to an elderly lady on a sinking ship, trying to desperately catch the attention of a helicopter that is miles away.

A lot of half-assed flailing around while moaning loudly.

Then came time to learn punches. I couldn't really see how they were doing it, but they'd say "Jab" and "Reverse" every time they threw a punch.

All the kids lined up in a straight line to do this exercise.

Except Andrew.

Andrew wanted to climb on top of the big punching bags.

So everything had to be stopped so the sensai could correct Andrew.

Meanwhile, I'm wanting to crawl under my chair.

I've never been embarrassed of my son until that day. And the reason I'm embarrassed is not that he has Aspergers. It's that he was so poorly disciplined and his main goal out there was to make the other kids laugh. The other parents who were PAYING for this lesson had to be thinking "My kid is getting absolutely nothing out of this lesson today because that Andrew kid won't let my kid focus."

So this went on for a while until my wife showed up to watch.

At that point, Andrew lost all interest in anything related to Karate.

The sensai sat them all down in a circle. Except for Andrew who preferred laying down next to the circle with his legs up in the air and his hand down the front of his pants, loudly telling everyone how tired he was.

The sensai kept trying to get Andrew to sit up to no avail. He was "too tired" to sit up and be respectful.

Finally, towards the end of the session, the "Stranger Danger" kitty was brought back out.

Andrew instantly lit up.

"Who wants to help me with this exercise," the Sensai said, cradling the little kitty in her hands.

"Me me me me me!" Andrew yelled as he left the circle of kids to join the Sensai and the kitty.

So the sensai explained that some strangers will do things like show kids kitties and then try to take them away from their homes in cars and that's wrong and we should yell things like "STRANGER! STRANGER!" or "THIS PERSON ISN'T MY PARENT!!!"

So it's Andrew's turn to demonstrate this technique.

Except Andrew's main focus is on that cat and he didn't hear a bit of the instructions he was just given.

"Hey little boy," the Sensai said. "Would you like to come play with my kitten?"

"Sure!" Andrew beamed as he petted the kitten and they started walking away.

The sensai stopped and told Andrew he's supposed to yell "STRANGER! STRANGER!"

Let's try it again.

"Hey little boy. Would you like to come play ......."

"SURE!!" Andrew laughed.

They tried it again.

Same thing.

So she took Andrew out of the building, thinking that once he's outside with a somewhat stranger and her kitty, he'd realize he had no idea where his parents were and would make a beeline right back to them.

Wrong.

He was ready to get in her car and go be kidnapped and have his ransom note laughed at by me as I wrote on the note "$10,000?!?!? No thanks. You can have him."

The sensai came back in with Andrew in tow and suggested that maybe another kid should try the exercise. All the other kids did fine. Andrew stood next to the sensai as her partner in child abduction trying desperately to play with the kitten.

The class ended and there was a bit of chaos as kids were all over the place with their parents and the sensai was trying to talk to the paying parents.

Andrew, Susie and I snuck out the door.

I asked Andrew if he liked it and he said "Not really."

Susie said she was going back in to see when the next class would be held.

I said not to worry about it because we weren't coming back.

And that was the last time we've spoken.

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