Storytime v. Gymnastics

We've put Pace into a few different activities since he was about one year old.  We did a few weeks of swim class (basically, “get used to the water while singing repetitive songs” class) while still in Weyburn last spring.  Over the summer, we did no formal activities (unless “Chase Pace around the campsite” counts) then, when we got back to Regina, we attended a toddler storytime program at the library (more repetitive songs but this time with actual books too! ) for a few weeks.  Now that's finished and we're trying our next activity – gymnastics – which started a couple weeks ago. 

I have to say, it's not what I expected – even though I wasn't quite sure what to expect (“Pace Hammond to the parallel bars…calling Pace Hammond.”) 

I thought storytime would be mellow and quiet and “traditional” for lack of a better term.  Instead, it was fun and energetic and varied, even within the structure of each week.  Pace hardly ever sat still but the instructor assured me that this was fine and that he was hearing the stories, even if he didn't seem to be (watching him clap and jump in the right places during later weeks, even as he wandered around the room, confirmed this was true.)

I thought the gymnastics class would be an even better fit – a chance for the Human Motion Machine that is Pace to burn off a ton of energy, be active and not feel guilty when he didn't sit in the circle listening attentively.  I didn't even think gymnastics would *have* a circle.  How wrong I was. 

Okay, there's only a brief circle time at the start of each week's session.  But then, the gymnastics class goes through a “circuit” that brings to mind the Westminister Dog Show more than something enjoyable for active youths.  Then they go to a different circuit nearby.  Then you get a stamp.  Then the class is over. 

The first week, Pace wandered away from the circuit we were on to look at a nearby balance beam and I didn't hustle him back to the line-up since he didn't seem particulary interested in following the group anyhow.  But since the gymnastics class is held in a large warehouse with many classes happening simultaneously rather than the cozy confines of the library's program room, we were quickly sent back to our group by an instructor who noticed us standing near her group watching curiously.  (How dare we!)

So I dragged encouraged Pace to get back in line where he walked across a crash mat, jumped on a mini-trampoline, strolled across a balance beam and…repeat.  (Okay, it's a bit longer course than that but you get the gist.)  The problems I have with this format are many: because it's
done like a dog show, the kids don't get time to explore the stations
that most interest them in any great length. 
And even though the kids are all roughly the same age, there are some vast age and developmental differences so some two and a half year old who “gets it” for lack of a better term, is whipping along through the course while a kid like Pace who's only a few months younger, is taking his time and is also a lot more easily distracted by things happening elsewhere in the building (or the fact that the one slide they're supposed to climb up and slide down on the course has a house built underneath it.  A HOUSE!  That you can play in.)  

And I won't even get into the politics of parenting that are evident in the gymnastics class.  I was conscious of them at storytime too – the perfect parents with the perfect baby, all dressed in brand name fashions, mom wearing full make-up and dad with not a hair out of place glancing at Pace in horror as he attempted to scale the stack of chairs against the wall while Shea and I are nowhere within arm's reach of him – but it was a more subtle form of judgement at the storytime (and, as my preceding comments illustrate, I was not immune! If you're reading this, I'm sure all three of you are lovely people and we should really meet for a playdate sometime. We'll bring cookies and you can bring bleach to spray down the toys after each time the kids touch them.) 

But at gymnastics, the parental paranoia factor seems so much higher – partly because you're marching in a line-up with these people and it's so much more obvious which ones push their kids, which ones don't, which ones rush their kids, which ones take their time. 

There's always the pressure of being in a line of toddlers that's as organized as a line of cats – “okay, Pace, time to move on to the hoop maze – another kid's coming…okay, Pace, stop eating that hoop, that kid's still coming!” 

And it brings out a competitive edge in a lot of parents that isn't as obvious when you're sitting at storytime singing “The Grand Old Duke of York”.  “C'mon Brittany – you can do it!  Look at that boy in front of you.  He did his somersault.  You do it now, c'mon you do it.  That's a girl, just let me bend your head forward for you, just a bit more, there you go!”   On top of it all, the instructors don't help things by being those chipper cheerleader-types that just kinda make you extra angry to off-set their “Hooray for everything!” attitudes. 

I don't know – it's probably partly because I'm out of my comfort zone going to a gym from a library (er, that sounds worse than I meant it to).  It's partly because Pace has just hit the milestone where he realises that he has the option to say 'no' and, if that isn't heeded, he can scream incredibly loudly and/or noodle by going as limp and flat as his body will allow. 

And, after doing the other two activities during the late afternoon (swimming) and evening (storytime) on weekdays, we had the brilliant insight that we should try a weekend activity.  “It'll be great – it'll get us up and out of the house every Saturday morning, we can run errands afterwards, it won't break up our evening so much like the weekday activities did.”  A brilliant strategy – until you realise that every other parent within a fifty mile radius of Regina has had the exact same thought so the gym is a complete and utter madhouse on Saturday mornings with screaming kids running, jumping and cartwheeling everywhere you go.  Even knowing it would likely be a bit busier than signing up for a weekday class, we thought “Oh, Pace will like all the action and excitement.”  And he does – to a point – but I think overstimulation is a real concern and I keep waiting for him to just seize up at some point – “Can't…take it…all…in.” – then crawl into that house under the slide and never come out.     

At any rate, we've only got a few weeks left.  And then, it's time to pick our next activity.  I wonder if Pace would like something calmer?  Hmm, I wonder – does the city offer Toddler Tai-Bow?

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    We had the kids in a very similar gymnastics course when they were that age, and Kindermusik, and swimming lessons. Looking back, the benefit was more for us as parents. Basically it would give us a bit of a breather from being the sole source of amusement — we could be present and engaged, but we could follow an instructor's lead for a while.
    As far as that goes, a playgroup at the community centre is just as beneficial as anything. If I were to go back and do it again, I would pick every activity based on price, location and schedule — it really was all the same to the kids. It wasn't until they were four or five that they started to really care about what they were doing rather than the fact that they were doing something.
    Now that they are 10 and 7, I'm starting to have to deal with not only what they want to do, and when they want to do it, but who they want to do it with. Friends and peer groups are more and more important.

    Posted 26 Jan 2009 at 6:06 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks for your thoughts – we have so many people with kids who are months to years older than Pace who've become great sources of advice in the “this is what we found/this is what you have to look forward to” sense and I include you in that group. (For example, I never even thought about the “who you do it with” aspect of all this stuff – that will definitely be a whole other level of complication!)
    Hope things are well with you (and your family too!)

    Posted 15 Feb 2009 at 7:20 am

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