I try not to impose too much, too early on my kid, but since he was 18 months old I’ve gradually introduced new activities: toddler music class, library story time, soccer, swimming, and gymnastics.
There have been some great moments, more mundane ones, and no small amount of tension. I can never tell if instructors actually expect full attention or if they’re secretly okay with the chaos of three-year-olds in a soccer scrimmage. I wish they’d let me know.
I’ll never forget Miles’ first music class. We’d just moved to Ohio, and I was looking for an activity to lend a semblance of routine to my new stay-at-home parenting life.
The teacher paid a lot of lip service to the Montessori ideal that we should follow the lead of our child. So when Miles didn’t conform to her instructions to, say, gallop in a line around the circle while singing, I looked to her for guidance. What I got was a disapproving smirk.
Even when the teachers aren’t shitty, we struggle.
During all the classes we’ve tried, I’ve vacillated between thinking it’s ridiculous to expect too much and wondering if something is wrong with my kid when he resists order.
What I want to instill in him is a willingness to try new things, a burgeoning understanding of group expectations, and, hopefully, confidence and joy from mastering skills. As long as he’s not miserable along the way.
So I try to encourage him to keep trying but don’t always insist on it. This approach seems to work, particularly with swimming, which he’s now tried three times. The second set of lessons, the parent-and-tot-in-the-pool-together kind, were hit or miss. Some days he was obviously proud to follow the instructor’s exercises. Other days, he couldn’t comprehend that it was a class not play time at the pool.
When we started a third series of lessons this fall, he was in the pool all by himself and, for the most part, he followed along. He smiled a lot too and proudly told Travis about what he did in class. But, by the third-to-last class, Miles climbed out of the pool after only five minutes to say he wanted to go home. I took him home and skipped the last week of lessons.
Sticking with the principle that we should continue to introduce new activities with a light, positive touch, my partner signed Miles up for ice skating. This Saturday, we took him to the first lesson—his first time ever on a solid sheet of ice.
Unlike with other organizations in town, the skating rink was extremely organized and friendly. The instructor was brilliant—positive and encouraging—and obviously knew how to hold the kids’ attention and invite them to try new things.
Miles concentrated hard and smiled frequently throughout the lesson. At one point, his eyes found me in the stands, and I gave him a big thumbs-up. He beamed and stuck his little thumb up in return.
I couldn’t believe that after only ten minutes of instruction, my baby–who’s not yet four–was moving slowly back and forth across the ice, balanced atop metal blades. He even learned how to fall the safe way and laughed every time.
Just like the first time he pooped by himself on the toilet, I was unexpectedly moved to tears. Is ice-skating a good fit for him? Did we arrive at this moment thanks to the cumulative impact of trying so many activities? It’s impossible to know, but sitting at the rink that morning, I felt like I’d nudged him out of the nest, and this time he could fly.