Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mommy & me

Today was the last day of this semester of ballet for S. This was a big deal for us because this class has been the first glimpse into the future for us, as it has been her very first drop off class. I was quite surprised to learn that three year old children for the most part no longer have activities where the parent is invited to attend. Our old ballet class had the parents all sit along the wall-out of the way but still in reaching distance so the children could come back and forth if they felt shy or overwhelmed.. Not this class. Not any that I have found in our immediate area for her age group. Unfortunately our old class was a good 30 minutes away which became ridiculous, especially now that H has more of a schedule going so we needed to switch centers and this class had three advantages; it is close by, it has the shortest class available, and she knew somebody else in the class.
So- I have learned that my confident social child becomes a completely different person when put in this situation.
We already went through the whole separation phase when she started her two's program (the longest yet shortest 5 hours a week possible) last year but this is different. This is a quick transition. School was something we could prep her for, we toured the grounds, interviewed, discussed, and when she was miserable the teachers had the chance to comfort her and transition her into the process slowly and gently. Of coarse it still wasn't slow or gentle enough for either of our likings but still.. At the very least there was free play (no problem), snack time (easy), and the playground (jackpot!). This class though is a 7 session, 45 minute, 1 instructor, 1 room, 10 student, in and out. As most classes will now be. Not a lot of time to warm up to the process..
So our journey went something like this;
Week 1- I dropped her off, kids go downstairs parents wait upstairs, she clambered on down with the girls in her class. Ta-da! Too easy!
Yes, it was.. Five minutes later she was back up the stairs not willing to go down again without me. So while H was handed off to another mother in the waiting room I clambered down the stairs and sat on the bottom step, the only grown up in the room other than the teacher, with her little face burrowed in my lap and scrambling limbs clinging to me as if I was a life raft.
Week 2- armed with a sitter in tow for H, I walked down stairs with S and eventually peeled her off my lap and felt victorious as she stood on the wood floor ten feet from the other girls and followed along for a good 15 minutes.
Week 3- daddy had H, I outsmarted her this time by refusing to sit thus she stood beside me until she took her place ten feet from the girls but wait- at last joined in right along side them for 5-10 minutes.
Week 4- H at home again, and again I refused to sit, and at last she joined in with the girls- timid but somewhat there she was at the ballet bar, in the circle, and she almost participated a good 75% of the class. she still would not acknowledge the teacher or the other children but still, I was beside myself.
Week 5- big mistake but we missed class because we were in England
Week 6- refer back to week 2, and that is the optimistic version. Maybe more like refer back to week 1. I was so frustrated and disappointed. Couldn't she remember how easy and fun it was the last time we were in the room?! Enough! Get off my lap, don't lay on the floor, get your finger out of your mouth- please. Wondering to myself why are we bothering?? What will the other kids think of this jellyfish like child throwing a fit in the corner? What will the parents think of me? Will anyone want to play with her after seeing her like this? Exhausting for both of us.
Week 7- And that brings us to today. Today was different. Today I was not the only mother in the room. There was another mother who joined her child in class, and when I say joined, she joined. She stood in circle time. She did first position, second, clapped, stretched, pointed, skipped.. she did everything and with no shame. Why had I not thought of this? Was I too self concerned, afraid of looking like an awkward giant clambering around the room? Embarrassed for S to have her mother prancing around like a maniac? This was a completely different approach than I had thought of before but at this point, why not? So I grabbed S's little hand and I danced, and I skipped, and I stood at the ballet bar in a perfect little line. And so did S. By the last ten minutes of class she reached out and held another little girls hand to be dancing partners, not mine. She skipped, she danced, she laughed.. she participated. She didn't even look back at me.
The class ended with me sitting in a chair at the base of the stairs and S in line with all the other little girls waiting to get her sticker for a job well done.
Victory. Pride. Relief.
And I'm talking for her, not just me.
Having a very sensitive child can be challenging at times, for both of us. I'm sure it's no walk in the park to have to feel the way S does at times. It is exhausting, confusing, embarrassing, overwhelming..
This was a big mindful moment for me. A little support, compassion, patience and empathy can go a really long way. I need to remember that and reflect that both in parenting and in my life in general.

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