We signed up for weekend classes at The Little Gym (a local children’s gym) when Catherine was about 20 mos old. The whole idea seemed like a giant play date with activities planned by a gymnast. What could be better than building coordination and friendships at the same time?
After our first few introductory classes with an incredible instructor, we spent the ride home fantasizing about meeting other parents and our daughter’s early graduation from independent play to interaction “Norman Rockwell-style” with other children.
The first thing we learned at the Little Gym was that very few people marry in their late thirties and have children in their early forties. We were surrounded by young moms and dads with whom we didn’t seem to have anything in common…most notably their seeing this venue as a “great opportunity for children to burn off as much energy as possible”…presumably without the risk breaking something (or someone) at home.
We thought it was a “class”… or at least supposed to be. They called it a “class”. Very few people seemed to mind that their children weren’t listening to the introductions at circle time or were off wandering around and playing on equipment while the instructor was explaining the next activity.
We were often in the minority of parents (and some children) straining to hear over the children who were screaming. I guess some parents can ignore screaming and carrying on in public...as if it was just white noise to everyone. These unaffected and inconsiderate parents accept it as normal and chat away with the other parents who are too cool and laid-back to care that their children might be acting like rabid orangutans.
The initial thought was that maybe we were just over-concerned micro managers. It just didn’t seem o.k. to us that no one seemed to reprimand or at least attempt to correct the behavior of children that didn’t wait their turn or worse... push our daughter out of the way.
Watching the little boy who hoarded all the bouncy balls or hula hoops while his father laughed it off, with what seemed like a touch of pride instead of embarrassment, was enough "scope creep" to dissolve my tolerance. I felt like we were getting an early glimpse of a future jerk that someone, someday, would have to work for…and the person clearly responsible for cultivating that personality.
Of course there was a small number of like-minded parents who seemed to share our view that most social situations are great coaching opportunities. They would correct impolite behavior and praise good manners. Although we would thank them for their courtesy, and try to parlay our appreciation into a comfortable ice-breaker, those opportunities felt to be few and far between.
We kept asking ourselves “Are we really uptight or just more mature?” Of course the latter was more pleasant to believe but irrelevant to the fact that we just didn’t fit in. So we bailed on The Little Gym.
We’ve since been to a few birthday parties since then and encountered, on average, at least one other parent that elects to stay in the same room with their children and monitor their play instead of blissfully hob-knobbing with other parents over Bloody Marys and Stella Artois… It’s nice knowing we’re not alone in our commitment to manage the development of a future adult.