Friday, December 21, 2012

Confessions of a Baby Class Hater

I walk in to the classroom,  full of hope, thinking this one will be better than the ones I've tried in the past. This class will be the one that is fun for me, enlightens my baby, and the one where we make a new friend. I imagine my children following directions, watching the teacher, and participating in the activity totally appropriately. In the meantime, I have chosen just the right outfit for the temperature, fashion, and activity level, and find another mom to connect with, and we hit it off, immediately exchanging nap tips and recipes. My child will play and laugh, and we will all leave, excited about returning the next week.

But then the actual class starts, and I am one of only two moms who thought bringing both kids was a better idea than a class on a school day, and that other mom is calm and smiling and both of her kids are participating appropriately. Meanwhile, I got the baby's shoes off and he is heading toward the nearest electrical outlet and my preschooler has decided he wants his shoes on and that hiding behind me in the Velcro hold. It is cool and misting outside and hot inside, and I forgot to layer beneath my sweater. I break a sweat.

I hold my older child on a hip and wrangle off his shoes and head to the activity. The baby toddles over, falling over one prop and sticking another in his mouth on the way. I pick him up and give him a kiss, then we get the teacher's attention to give her the soiled toy for her "yuk bucket" and catch our breath. Both kids are on my lap, looking at the classroom and activity. By then, we have all slightly adjusted to the bright lights and busy room, and briefly join into the activity.  Whew. I am already tired and we are less than 5 minutes into the class.

It looks like I am only one who is working hard at playing with the kids in a class setting.

We have tried swimming, gymnastics (at, ahem, four places), science,  Gymboree, Spanish, art, library hour, and music.  We have done classes at the YMCA and at swankier venues.  Needless to say, they all tire me out and I'm not sure my children are all that zen with them either.  Actually, our first gymnastics class was decent (hence trying three more), but we moved from that area and haven't found the equivalent.  We also had a good spell with Mommy and Me yoga, but still my baby was the one who needed to nurse while everyone was doing Sun Salutations.

So why do we keep trying? Why not call a spade a spade and get on with it? We could play in the back yard, go to the grocery store and the park, and watch the clouds and the dogs on the trail. Nobody is telling me how I need to spend my time with my children yet I insist on classes every so often and they make me palpitate.

I read "Our Babies, Ourselves" when my older son was a newborn and it was fascinating to learn that how we parent is a reflection of our cultural values. I suppose it is obvious, but it still makes me think about how we have our babies do things like sleep alone or sit in a stroller because our society values independence. 

That being said, here is my confession: I hate baby classes. I find "The Wheels on the Bus" dull and don't like making smiley faces at strangers' babies across the circle as I do hand motions.  I don't like shadowing behind my children as they learn to take turns on a brightly colored plastic slide.  Maybe my repeated attempts at the classes are a reflection of my value of learning from a teacher in a group setting and trying to give my children a jump on skills that will be useful later. And I do need to realize that no matter how cynical I am of some of our societal norms, I have still chosen to raise my children in this setting.

So maybe they will flourish more if they can sing along with a chorus of little ones and their caregivers: who knows. But I do know that I flourish less when I spend my time in that setting and that my kids need me to be as present as possible, whatever that takes.

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