When Little Jacks was our only child, we signed up for classes like Gymboree, Music Together and other baby classes. It was fun to be involved, meet other parents, and I felt good about the stimulation I was providing our baby. Once Jack Jack came along though, we just didn’t have time for such activities because I was working ridiculous hours in addition to caring for our family. We took the approach that life with siblings was stimulation enough! The girls had school, their nanny, more birthday parties to attend than we could keep track of, and their regular friends… what more did they need? Of course, you know there has to be something.
Well, you might remember last December when I took Little Jacks to see the Nutcracker. After seeing it, she began to obsess about doing ballet.We partially ignored her requests, partially distracted her by dancing together in our living room, and partially promised that if she was still interested at some point in the future that we’d consider a ballet class.
Fast forward to this fall, when she was still adamant that she wanted to do ballet. I began to search for a class that could work with our schedule and that was appropriate for a 3 year old. Everything for her age group was on a weekday morning, even though the majority of American adults work and many toddlers go to school. I had to search high and low for a Saturday morning class that didn’t require parent participation. I knew that I still wouldn’t be able to go to every one, since I work so many weekends, but at least I’d be able to go to some!
The first couple of weeks, LJ was very skeptical about participating. She just sat on the sidelines of the studio and watched or actively resisted efforts to engage. I seethed on the sidelines, thinking to myself, ‘This is precious weekend time, little one. Make the most of it!’ Despite my fears, my little observer did finally begin to engage after a few weeks… and boy, does she love it!
While she’s in ballet class, I get the opportunity to talk to other Saturday morning ballet moms like me who needed a Saturday class. These moms work ridiculous hours during the week, but even on Saturday mornings, they look totally put together (while I look like I was just dragged out of the rain) and are so patient with their high energy tots. They are witty and charismatic and inclusive. They throw dinner parties. These are the moms I aspire to be… I was secretly taking notes on how they do it all and look good in the process.
And then, my world was crushed. Over time, I learned that they are activity moms. Their kids have ski team, swim team, music lessons, soccer team, and one even does double dance classes on Saturday morning. I tried to keep track of all the activities they told me about and figured out that each child has approximately 4 different activities on an ongoing basis. Not only were they doing everything that I do and making it seem effortless, but they were doing so. much. more.
First, let me say that I was so impressed. No wonder their girls were so vivacious and engaged from the first moment of class. They are experts at this stuff! No wonder the moms are so charismatic and kind and funny. They have so much more bandwidth than I do! But then I got frustrated. What happened to work-life balance? It made me feel bad about our family only doing one measly activity. How would I ever know what my girls are good at if they were only trying one thing when everyone else was doing several? I might have even spent a few minutes in a dark place feeling envious and competitive and entertaining the idea of double Saturday dance classes.
Then reality set in. I know that eventually we’ll have to widen our scope of weekly activities as the girls get older. Maybe someday I’ll even be doing that after-school activity shuffle that so many people do. But right now, we are really enjoying being untethered by a full weekly agenda. I really appreciate that we can spend most of our Saturday bug hunting and collecting leaves in the yard. And maybe I’m ruining my daughters’ dance, soccer, or musical talents by not exposing them early and often, but I am exposing them to the wider world around them, and hopefully they’ll look back someday and feel like that’s enough.
And I’ll still torture myself thinking about whether we should do double Saturday dance classes or maybe Sunday ski lessons. Or maybe not.
What’s your approach to baby/toddler/early childhood activities?