Enjoying my daughter's company

In March, Julia started gymnastics. We signed up for Saturday mornings, so Scott could do it with her, and once it got warmer, switched to a week day, so we would have free weekends to do outdoor things (aka: yard work).

We have been fortunate to have a very kind teacher who seems to understand and genuinely enjoy toddlers. She makes it clear each class that her instructions are optional, and that as long as children are safe and in the same general area, it's fine for them to be "off task." The parents in our class have similarly seemed to like their children, and to have fun during the 45 minute class.

I took all of this for granted until a couple of weeks ago, when we took a make-up class with another teacher. From the moment class started, it was clear that things were going to be different. The teacher wanted all 10 toddlers in a line, doing each activity in sequence. The expectation was that each child participate in each obstacle or activity, regardless of whether he or she wanted to or not. I watched one two-year-old boy crying as the teacher and his mother forced him into a somersault, and then cheered wildly when he "did it," unwillingly. Parents rolled their eyes at their children, barking commands such as "you get back in line," and "wait your turn." While I have no idea about any of these families' circumstances, it certainly seemed as if the children were seen as a burden, an inconvenience, to both their parents and the teacher.

During class, times I've been impatient with Julia flashed through my head. Am I like these moms? I thought? One particular power struggle from several months ago came to mind: Julia refusing a diaper change, me saying, "Then sit on the damn potty." Not my finest moment, that's for sure. But in general, I would say that Julia, Scott and I have a very pleasant, even-keeled dynamic. I like being with Julia, and I love our time together. I certainly do not want to come off as overly judgmental or self-righteous. But our experience at gymnastics illustrated a trend I have noticed in my 2.75 years as a parent: joyless parents dragging their children around, sighing at every transgression, eyes rolled. 

Last night, Julia and I got back from five wonderful days at my parents' in New Hampshire. There were many great things about being home, but one was that in the absence of having to cook, clean, or do errands (thanks, Mom and Dana!), I was able to slow down a little and simply enjoy Julia's company. My mom said at one point during our visit that I really seemed to like being with Julia. And as we spent an afternoon and evening traveling home last night, I tried hard to keep my expectations in check and enjoy our time together as much as I could. Instead of rolled eyes when she started to lose it at her typical bedtime on the plane, I took a breath, smiled, and pulled out some books and some m&ms. It's always good to practice being the kind of parent I want to be.