We attempted a tumbling class for my 18 month old. To me, that already sounds crazy, but when I had viewed the classes through the window, it just looked like fun stuff was set up and the kids got to explore. So, score, a way for him to burn energy in the winter. Sign me up. I hadn't realized there is a social requirement that parents follow their children around narrating every. single. thing. they do. "You're walking toward the door now. The door is red...Oops! You fell down...Oh, look at that, you're pooping on the trampoline. What good coordination!" I understand and appreciate using teaching moments, but at this age they are constantly learning, it doesn't need to be forced ad nauseum. And I can't imagine, if you're babbling at a child incessantly, that the they are actually listening most of the time anyway.
After 5 minutes of free play we were all asked to sit down to sing a song to stretch. He's one. He can throw his legs over his own head without even trying. Also, he isn't doing the song and dance, I am wrestling him, like a drunk marionette, and trying to convince him this is all more fun than the awesome stuff he's surrounded by. He decided to show me just how limber he really is, and flings his head backwards into my face, giving me a bloody lip.
The little ones are then allowed a few more moments to play, but we are instructed to 'Move them along from one activity to the next so they can master all the different movements!" 0_o He can do every activity the set up, but what he really wants to do is hurl himself into the giant foam pit over and over. I'm okay with this and bury myself in foam cubes, then sit back and watch. It's a foot and a half climb to get out each time. The kids got incredibly upper body strength and I don't think crawling under foam arches is crucial to his development. Another mother eventually follows her daughter into the pit and hunkers down with me. Her daughter is chewing one of the beanbag animals we're supposed to be teaching the children to throw through hoops. She gets it.
We are then instructed to place all of the children onto a parachute while the adults shake it, and the babies sit and cry, or run - smashing into each other - terrified. Ro decides he's thirsty, and this is ridiculous, so he pulls my shirt down repeatedly while I, again, try to convince him to do something he has no interest in.
At this point I said 'screw it' and walked out. What surprised me most, though, was the horrible self doubt I felt walking back to my car. Is my son a bad kid? Am I raising him right? What if he's one of 'those' kids? I was almost in tears as I buckled him in, until he kissed my cheek. I called my husband, and he reminded me of all the things we are somewhat certain we are doing right. He reminded me that the only reason our daughter would have stayed on my lap at that age is because she would have been too shy to leave me, probably would have hated the experience, and wouldn't have learned anything from it.
We do circle time at our home in the morning, and he is starting to move and sing along. He glances at stories as we read them, and learns to do crafts with his sister. Beyond that, I really don't know what I'm doing right or wrong most days, but I analyze myself to death. I worry that he is not as cautious as his sister, and I'm mortified when we go to a friends house and he makes it his personal mission to show them all the ways their home is not baby-proofed. We set the limit that if he could hurt himself, someone else, or another person's possessions, Itell him no. If he cries I do not give in. I try to use simple phrases to explain, praying for the day he will fully understand.
I also believe that right now, he is learning what his body can do. He is amazed by himself, and the world, daily. He doesn't look at a paint brush as solely a means of making designs, he wonders what it feels like on his cheek, and wants to squish the paint. He doesn't just want to sit in a rocking chair, he wants to make the cushions into a slide. He likes to help me cook dinner and do dishes, and hide under the towels as I fold laundry. He makes me laugh and smile all the time. Sure, he sometimes spills water bottles down his front, but I'm impressed he knows how to properly close and open them; And, because he knows how to open doors and has explored every drawer in the house, he goes to get a towel to clean up his mess.
With a bit more self reflection I realized that the only times I worry about my son is when I'm worrying what others think of me because of him. I know he's wonderful. I love his curiosity, and marvel at his strength, determination, and intelligence. I worry why he won't sit in a circle and do something that makes absolutely no sense to him, instead of being concerned with what forcing him to sit to please others will do to his sense of autonomy. I scold myself for not consciously cultivating enough of the knowledge that internet lists say I should be focusing on, instead of trusting in both of us to explore and learn naturally together. I feel suffocating self doubt when my child runs off of the parachute, clinging to me for comfort, when all of the other children on the chute are crying or afraid and don't know how to get out of the situation. He may not be doing the bizarre things a stranger decided he should try, but he knows to get out of a place that makes him uncomfortable. He knows he can trust in me. Maybe I should trust in myself a bit, too.