Or, a lot of words about a little event.
When Adriana was maybe eight or nine months old, I took her to a class at the Little Gym by our house. It went horribly. They would pass out instruments or toys, sing a little song, and then put the toy away and move onto the next thing. Every other baby in the class seemed to do fine with that, but the pace was too quick for Adriana, who didn’t understand why the bell or scarf she’d been handed was already being taken away. We had just moved to Mountain View, and I had thought it would be a good place to meet other moms, but it just seemed too obviously a bad fit, so we didn’t go back. When she was a little over a year old we began attending a toddler gymnastics class at the rec center in Palo Alto, which was a perfect fit for her personality: it was completely unstructured at that age--just free play on the gym equipment. For 45 minutes once a week, she tried all her crazy stuff in a padded room while I got to talk with the moms and nannies as I followed her around.
We stopped that class when Lyra was a few months old. Adriana was in nursery school and it just didn’t fit well with our schedule. But it’s become apparent lately, that Lyra could use a padded room for her monkey impressions, and Adriana has expressed interest in gymnastics. There are a few places we could try, but the schedule at the Little Gym worked for us and it’s close to home. I did Lyra’s trial class first. There is a huge difference in the girls’ personalities, and I knew she would like whatever class we chose, and going with just her would give me a chance to check it out and talk to them about how the older kids’ class would go.
And Lyra loved it. When we walked in and they asked if she was Lyra, she jumped up and down, and said “I am baby Lyra! I love watermelon and swings and penguins and my mama.” She did fine with the pace of the class, wandering off from the group occasionally, but always having fun. Toward the end of the class time, she managed to somersault off of one mat onto another seemed to make the instructor a little nervous but reinforced why we were there.
After class I talked to the woman working at the desk about Adriana, explaining that she can be slow to warm up to new people and places. She told me the names of the teachers for her class, and suggested that we arrive early to give us some time to check things out. She explained that parents would sit on the other side of the window to watch, but if she needed me close, I could go sit inside, although they would prefer I didn’t follow her around to the different things she would be doing.
During the week, I would occasionally mention the gymnastics class and tell Adriana everything that the people at the gym had told me. I described the place to her, and talked about what Lyra had done during her class. And I promised that if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to go back. She was anxious, though. “I want you to stay right with me the whole time,” she kept insisting. I didn’t talk about how that wouldn’t work out logistically because of Lyra; we have enough sibling rivalry as it is. I promised her she would be able to see me through the window the whole time. “I get nervous about new places, too, but it usually turns out okay,” I told her.
We arrived early, just as another little girl and her mother were going into the building. The teachers at the desk greeted Adriana by name, and the one teaching her class came around to introduce himself to her. Lyra answered all his questions while Adriana remained silent and held my hand. He gave Adriana a quick tour, and then introduced her to the other little girl who was there and suggested they play together.
There’s this wonderful thing about little girls this age: if you introduce them to someone and describe them as a new friend, they can instantly play together. At the California Academy of Sciences I ran into someone I know through La Leche League. We’d never met one another’s older children, but when we introduced the girls to one another, they ran off to play immediately. The same thing happened when Adriana was introduced to a girl at the gym: the other little girl led Adriana over to where the toys were as the teacher had requested, and they sat down to build with blocks together. And then when it was time for class to start, Adriana and her new friend stuck close together as they followed the teacher onto the mat.
I hadn’t realized how nervous I was about her behavior until I watched for a few moments and began to relax. She joined in the activities, did what the teacher asked, and seemed totally comfortable. She looked over to the window and made eye contact with me any time they switched activities, but it was always to throw me a smile and a wave. And I love that smile so much. It was the grin she has when she is having fun and feeling grown up and proud of herself. As I saw the teacher demonstrate some of the exercise, I wondered if she would be able to do them, and some were obviously a bit complicated, but others she managed easily, and she was willing to try everything.
At the end of the class she came running out the door to me. “It was so fun. I did it! I’m going to come back tomorrow, okay?”
So I signed her up for next week.