I started taking Kendall to Gymboree classes when he was 3 months old. I willingly jumped into the…uhhh… stimulating, looks like Crayola puked all over it, world of clowns and bubbles, and songs about clowns and bubbles, when I realized that I pretty much sucked at entertaining my immobile infant. He just laid there and stared at me all day, and I would do my best to spark smiles and coos and oohs and aahs from him by reciting “itsy bitsy spider” and the ABCs over and over again because that’s pretty much the only “baby” songs I knew enough of the words to. Occasionally I would just break down and belt out a little Kelly Clarkson or Joshua Radin, but felt like I was just really not all that exciting as he laid there…blink….blink…yawn…oh look! Is that a ceiling fan?
I needed to go somewhere where I could learn to be cooler than the ceiling fan. I needed to go somewhere where I could learn more age appropriate songs and rhymes and games (although I did question the class instructor’s sanity when she suggested we break out some silky lingerie at home to let the babies feel and rub and roll around in, but then again it’s not like we were really using it). Not to mention, I needed to get out. I needed to meet other moms. I needed a REASON to leave the house because, left to my own devices, we would have stayed inside all day and I would have slowly grown into a hunchback cave woman, forgetting English. I would have raised Kendall to worship ceiling fans and speak in a made up language. In an effort to not raise the next Nell, I committed to going three times a week. We loved it. I loved it. I am forever grateful to Gymboree for making me more exciting than the ceiling fan.
Since then, I *have* met other moms. I *have* learned games and songs and songs and more songs. I have so many bubble and clown songs memorized that I can sing one for every moment of the day. Putting on socks? There’s a song for that. Cleaning up? There’s a song for that. Stay still on the changing table or I’m going to accidentally get shit on your face? There’s a song for that. (Okay, so maybe I’m adapting some of these a little. Just so happens adapting songs to suit the moment is a super mom skill that I’m very proud to have mastered.)
We started in Level 1, and have since made our way all the way up to Level 4 in a matter of one year. Obviously, a lot has changed in a year. Class is not very relaxing or all that fun for me as I run around and make sure Kendall doesn’t fling himself face first down the slide like he does at home. I like to at least keep up the illusion that I’m raising a civilized human while out in public. I don’t get to really meet and chat with new moms anymore. We just don’t have time as we pass each other while chasing our toddlers. And yes, there’s that whole “toddler” thing. This is no longer a class of babies. There is not a baby to be seen in Level 4. It is chock full of terrorist toddlers, pushing boundaries, pushing buttons, and some are even pushing other kids.
At class yesterday a boy, probably around 18 or 19 months old, straight up walked up behind Kendall and pushed him over. Not like an, “Oops! Didn’t see you there, buddy!” push, but like a “WTH are your doing standing up? Boom!” kind of push. Luckily, they were standing on a really soft mat and Kendall is pretty unfazed by being knocked down. It happens about 10 times a day with the dogs. The mom quickly apologized, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. The boys went on their way, but I noticed the boy, let’s call him BamBam, kept having run ins with others in the class. His mom kept going on and on about how he need to “be nice!” and continued chasing him. Toward the end of the class BamBam walked up to another boy sitting on the parachute and, unprovoked, began hitting him HARD on the top of the head repeatedly.
What followed created a tense sea of awkwardness. The mom of BamBam, for whatever reason, didn’t react right away (and it’s very possible that her view of him was obstructed at that time). The mom of the boy who was hit rushed to him, very sternly grabbed BamBam’s arm, pushed him away, and sharply and a little loudly said “NO!”, which I have to say, I think she was actually showing a lot of restraint there. BamBam’s mom appeared offended that the other mom touched her son and disciplined him. She shouted out a halfhearted “sorry” with the tone of “Uhhh…how dare you?” Visibly upset the rest of class, the mom of the boy who was hit had a meeting with the center director as everyone was leaving.
So now we’ve advanced to the level where Kendall gets to run up slides and jump on the mini trampoline and I get to wade through the sticky mess of how to deal with my toddler and other people’s toddlers when all the toddlers are trying out their new found physical powers on each other, and really, it’s not so much about dealing with the toddlers as it is dealing with the parents. Joy. Not that this new level of fun doesn’t extend beyond the doors of Gymboree. It’s just a perfect microcosm, magnifying the next bump in the road of development for both toddler and parent.
The opportunity to learn from other’s public embarrassment was not lost on me. I’ve pondered over the last 24 hours how I would have behaved as BamBam’s mom. I’d like to think that not long after accosting the second child and long before it escalated to beating another over the head, I would have taken Kendall out of class instead of chiding, “be nice!” repeatedly as he went about his terrorizing ways. Would I have accepted BamBam’s mom’s apology as easily had he done more than just push Kendall down on a soft mat? Would I have done more than just remove Kendall from the situation if BamBam were hitting him over the head? Would I have shouted NO and grabbed BamBam’s arm? I don’t know, but, I’m careful not to judge too harshly or publicly, knowing full well that Karma, the bitch, could very well turn the tables on me at any moment as we get deeper and deeper into the shady realm of toddlerhood.
It would be kind of nice to go back to worrying about being cooler than the ceiling fan right now.
Kendall is 15 months and 1 week old