Not the nanny: June 29, 2007
Every Friday, our keenly observant mid-Hudson mom will share her unique viewpoint on NY parenting.
Sun Jul 1 2007
Baby school dropout
We all know there's a childhood obesity epidemic, but do three-year-olds really need tight abs? I couldn’t help but think this as I drove past our local gym and caught a glimpse of the roadside sign “Pilates for Kids! Tuesday at 10 am.” It was spelled out in bold, black letters—all caps—as if any good parent would want to sign their kid up immediately. All I could imagine was Meme Roth at the front of the room, guiding a gaggle of little girls through the paces on pint-sized reformers. Uh, no thanks. And this time, I refuse to give in to the peer pressure from my local mommy crew to comply. Nothing will convince me that a preschooler needs Pilates. I don’t care if the coolest kid in The Little Gym does it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type of mom who turns her nose up at Gymboree. I’ve been known to get jiggy at Kindermusik. I’m all for kiddie extracurriculars, but just because a class can be marketed towards the toddler set doesn’t mean mine needs to go.
Before the twins were born, my oldest daughter and I were running buddies. We had a full schedule comprised of the complete gamut of toddler classes and library story hours (complete with snacks and animal crackers). Unlike some other moms, I didn’t go there looking to pledge the mommy sorority, I just went there to have a good time. I went to marvel at my own kid as she explored new things, sounds, people and ideas outside of the confines of our own home. I wanted to get down on the floor and play with her on a surface I didn't feel obligated to vacuum. And, yeah, I guess a little tiny part of me trudged through snow and ice to those Musical Munchkins classes just so I could feel like a good mommy.
Is that so wrong? Not at all. But truth be told, while I felt like I being a good mom, I was actually doing it “mostly for me”—as evidenced by the fact that today, my oldest doesn’t even remember those classes, much less the friends she met there (so much for the "socialization" aspect of it). And I have yet to see how such classes made her “superior” to other kids who, say, attended daycare all day. My poor twins, subject to the second syndrome, don’t have half the roster full of enrichment activities as their older sister did (go figure). But guess what? They love me just the same. And although they’re not the certified geniuses my husband and I swore our firstborn was, their cognitive and gross and fine motor skills are—from what I can tell—exactly where they should be for their age. I’ll let you know how it all pans out in the end, but from where I stand right now, they’re all going to be just fine.
So no, we’re not doing kiddie pilates. Take that, Meme Roth.
There comes a point when one realizes that one can only do but so much. I’ve always wondered why the women’s magazines talk about that all the time, but the parenting publications rarely do. Kids are great, but they’ll kill you if you let them. (Where’s that headline, parenting magazines?) By now, we’re all used to the fact that one can pretty much find a kids' class in anything. For urban parents, especially New Yorkers, the possibility of kiddie classes are endless. Yoga for kids. Absolutely amazing art classes for kids. Culinary classes for kids whose parents only know how to boil water. And let’s not forget about Kidville. If you’re a “good” mommy or daddy, there’s no reason why your 20-month-old shouldn’t be able to ask for a sippy cup in Italian while doing the downward facing dog.
We live in a Gymboree era, but does that mean we’re obliged to enroll in order to be called adequate parents? Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re already a good parent (after all, this is your down time.) So ease up. Feel good about taking your toddlers to the classes you’ve enjoyed, but don’t beat yourselves up about the ones you'll sleep through. The kids could care less: They’re well nurtured, mentally stimulated, and most likely headed for the colleges of their choice. I’m not saying we’ll cut Kindermusik, but if anybody in this family “needs” an hour on the reformer, it’s mommy. And that’s okay, too.
Meera Bowman-Johnson began her career as an editorial art director. Today, she's a freelance writer and fulltime mom who lives with her husband, Mat Johnson, their fraternal twins and five-year-old in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley. A regular columnist for Anti-Racist Parent, Meera blogs about pop culture, politics and parenting.