Ceiling fan’s got nothing on testy toddlers

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

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  1. I would not have been nice had bambam been beating on my kid. An accidental bump is one thing. Beating on the soft spot (BRAIN DAMAGE!! HELLO!) is something completely different. Overreacting? Maybe. But it seems obvious that this mom has no clue how to handle her kid and her kid is running over her with a lawn mower. Bzzzz. I would have definitely grabbed the arm, said no, we do NOT hit other people and removed the kid bodily. Yes bodily. Not hurt, not hit, but remove. Too much? Bite me. They’re toddlers, not 5 year olds. If the mom refuses to do something, or refuses to stay on top of a bully, you have to stick up for your own kid. As they get older, you have to let them take their bumps. But ignoring a bully always gets the same result, they grow up to raise bullies of their own.

  2. Uuuuuh, I’m pretty sure you can’t call a toddler a bully, as they toddlers don’t have the mental capacity to target other toddlers for physical and mental torment. Also, the soft spot grows over after 12 months.

    But I agree with the removing the kid from the situation – not as a matter of “this toddler needs a time-out and dessert taken away”, but as a matter of safety for the other kids. And I would probably not go back to Gymboree until my kid was able to be less agressive (either that or run him around the park for a good hour before going to class!).

    I’ll still take the “what to do in this situation” over being better than a ceiling fan any day, though!

  3. It takes a village. It’s too bad that mom’s can’t band together to help each other out. The mom who said “No” to Bam-Bam was *teaching* the child. In my fantasy world (as I have a 5 mo old and don’t know what I’m talking about) all moms would help out in situations like these where kids can get out of sight quickly… it makes more sense than having 10 ladies look on in disgust that BamBam’s mom can’t stick to him like glue to redirect him at every moment. A simple “no” or “gentle” from an adult might be all this kid needs to stop before something starts.

  4. Soft spots grow over at 18 months, not 12. And actually, I can call anyone anything I want, it’s my prerogative and my own opinion. And it’s kind of rude, quite frankly to type the ‘uhhhh’ in front of your comment, as if you’re questioning my sanity. I already posted in my comment that it was meant to be an overreaction. I’ll merely assume you’ll take that to heart and not do that to anyone else. I did not offend anyone in my comment, you should be kind enough to do the same.

  5. Very interesting topic.. we had a discussion on my blog recently about toddlers and dicipline but when it comes to babies potentially hurting other babies it definitely becomes a much stickier topic – one that I am not looking forward to having to deal with either as bully mom or victim mom!

    If it were me, I think I would have reacted by telling the mother to please do something about her child (i.e it’s NOT ok what he’s doing but its not ok that I touch or discipline him either, that’s YOUR job!)

  6. You never know when you are going to be THAT mom and have your kid do something that makes you want to hide. My baby has pinched other babies faces during gymboree and it makes me feel mortified. Saying that, I think we need to be more supportive in these group baby toddler classes.

    In my parenting opinion, the mom who objected should not have touched Bam Bam. Verbally saying no was fine. She is not there to parent Bam Bam and should have moved her child away. Bam Bam’s mother should have been on top of it and intervened. The situation should have been diffused by the leader of the group too.

    I absolutely hate the whole mom interaction in this touchy subject. Babies and toddlers are learning and we are there to help them learn. They don’t know about social norms and what is acceptable and what is not or that they could hurt someone. However, that being said we as parents do know that it is not cool for babies to bite other babies and toddlers to wack another toddler.

    No easy answer really. We all parent a bit differently and then mingle in these classes. I think I might have tried to strike up a conversation with Bam Bam’s mom post Kendall toss. Something like, ‘wow, Bam Bam sure has a lot of energy. He must keep you pretty busy.’….

  7. I love reading you blog since my baby boy and your baby boy are just a few days apart in age.

    I have a sweet angel of a son and I want to freak when he gets shoved by older children, but at the same time, on many occasions he has sat his chubby butt right down on babies smaller than him when he wants the toy/book/snack that they’re having. I’m standing right there, I can’t read his mind, so of course he does his thing before I can react. It’s a learning age. I know that even in my adult years, I often have to make a mistake first before I learn that it is wrong. It’s more so with a toddler. They’re testing.

    Maybe BamBam usually doesn’t hit other kids and was just having a bad day – I would rather think the best of the mom and BamBam, then assume she sucks as a mother because her kid was being rough for the first time. My son smacked me hard in the face yesterday – on purpose – for the first time in his life, and it was right in from of my mom. I could see her look of shock that I let him hit me. But I was so stunned that I didn’t react right away. I held his hand sternly and said NoNo and he cried and hasn’t done it again, but it’s not like we hit and so he learned to hit from us. It was natural – he didn’t want a diaper on, I did, and he used his body in protest.

    I try to give the benefit of the doubt because you’re right, Karma is a be-otch. And while you think your kid is perfect, I think my kid is perfect, so we have to work together and not put the other down.

  8. My first reaction was that BamBam’s mom should be physically near her kid all the time in situations like that, where she knows he is likely to be aggressive.

    My second reaction was that, wow, that’s a lot of freaking attention to pay every second and we all slip up from time to time.

    After reading the comments, I’ll add:

    Yes, some children, even this young, are bullies. Or call them aggressive or whatever you want to call them. But it is very clear that while some kids are docile, some are quiet, some are adventurous, some are cautious. They are born with traits. Not all kids hit or kick with intent but some clearly do. You can easily tell the difference between a kid that grabs a toy and the kid who grabs a toy and then pushes the other kid down.

    And the idea of ‘it takes a village’ really resonated with me. Instead of Bambam’s mom being angry, what if in addition to apologizing, she thanked the mom for stepping in? Or if some other parent stepped in before it got to that point? It doesn’t sound like it was the ideal situation for that, that the parents aren’t all that close.

    It’s hard. It’s hard to give your best Every. Single. Moment. Well, you do, but your best varies wildly from stellar to “better than nothing.” I imagine Bambam’s parents wear themselves out chasing after him, intervening, heading off.

  9. Personally, I think the mom of the little boy getting hit in the head handled it perfectly. From my interpretation BamBam needs someone to tell him no a little more often. If his mom had done it a lot earlier on it would not have escalated. And yes, leaving, if necessary, is the way to go. But really I thin you could simply make it clear that this behavior is unacceptable and it would stop.

  10. Oh and I just had to scold a little boy on the playground the other day. It was actually comical. See he was at the playground with his preschool class and he kicked my daughter – now he was about five and she is not quite one. As you can imagine I was pissed! So I waited to see what his teacher(s) would do – and they did nothing. And then he continued to walk around kicking everyone and everything in his path. So, I marched right over, took his hand and told him to stop. Now one of the teachers came over ad told him, “You have to listen.” And then when he did stop they asked me how I got him to do that. I felt like saying I told him to stop – you didn’t but I just shrugged my shoulders. 🙂

  11. I remember when I used to worry about my son getting knocked down by the big kids. Now I worry about him knocking down the little kids. I’m always on pins and needles at the play ground, afraid he’s going to hurt some other kid, and the parents will sue me. 🙂

  12. In my years of experience which is many… I have learned, we as parents of our children forget that all children hit, bite, kick, shove, push, poke, and taunt. Most children have “learned” to not do it when mommy and daddy are watching. 😉 Its how they learn and develop social skills. Sometimes lack of communication skills is the reason for this, other times its lack of parenting skills that causes the continuation of this. Its difficult to be patient through this phase with any child especially when it is “someone elses child.” Just remember one thing, the situation can easily turn on you.. it may be your child next week. : )

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