I knew that raising a toddler with my MMA fighter husband could pose some interesting challenges. In his first year of life, my son and I spent many hours watching jiu-jitsu practices, kickboxing classes, and even a couple of MMA fights (he may have been the only infant there). When my son turned one, some very crazy things started to happen. It began with punching. He would punch anything and all things. One morning he even woke up punching the air. Next, he added kicking into his repertoire of moves. The final transformation into him becoming an amateur MMA fighter happened when I bought a cute blow-up basketball hoop that turned into his sparring partner.
By 14 months, my son was running around the house, tackling the basketball hoop and showing off his “ground and pound” skills. Super normal…right?
In the confines of our home, these new behaviors sometimes come off as cute. A son is trying hard to “be like daddy,” parents are encouraging their son to explore his interests; a child is using his imagination in creative play.
In the outside world, my son has become an MMA toddler bully who swings on anyone who comes within his reach.
He wraps his toned little arms around the legs of other children and proceeds to drag them to the ground. I hate to admit this, but there have even been a couple of biting issues when my husband or I were unable to pull our MMA todder off of the unexpecting child opponent.
So what do we do with this…
I don’t have an exact answer. My husband and I try to reinforce “nice” touches and being gentle. We practice hugs that don’t lead to a takedown. We continue to show what love looks like and hope that my son will eventually be able to separate the fighting he sees into a category where his opponents are other consenting martial artists.
When all else fails, I do have fighter mama friends that also are trying to navigate this world that I can call on for non-judgmental play dates. We spend a lot of time redirecting and modeling how to be kind, and I always leave feeling grateful that I do have these other women to join me on this journey. I look forward to the day I can enroll my child in his first jiu-jitsu class to teach him the proper time and place to take down other children.