Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pushing Pause

In September I was SO excited and anxious to get Reagan into gymnastics. She was my strong and nimble daredevil, and I thought she'd love it.

This past weekend I decided it was time for a break.

Here's the thing. She does love the skills. She loves climbing, bouncing down the trampoline, walking on the beam, hanging from the bars and flipping herself around, getting to tumble. What she doesn't love is the requirement that she do this in a class.

Back in the fall, it took a few weeks before Reagan become accustomed to the waiting for a turn, moving from apparatus to apparatus, and sitting still for explanation and instruction. She finally caught on, but the other kids in the class were a good year older than her, I didn't love the gym we were in, and it was pretty far from us. When the session was up, I made the switch a gym that was much closer and had a class where Reagan was in the middle of the pack. And over the winter, she did great. She had moments of course, but she seemed to hit her stride.

Then she turned two. And although Madison was a pretty easy two year old and really hit her "terrible toddler" stage at three, Reagan embraced the terrible twos with every fiber of her being.

Sidenote: I've heard the "odd" years are the toughest for toddlers (1-2, 3-4). Reagan appears to be opposite. So, in THEORY, she should be an awesome three year old. Right? RIGHT??????

Then, when the session ended, the younger group of kids in her class took a break, and once again, she's the youngest. All the other kids in her class are getting ready for preschool in the fall, while she still has another year to be a toddler. They are now excellent at waiting in line, following directions, and answering questions, and Reagan has grown more defiant about such things.

All this adds up to a 45 minute class that is about 23 minutes of tantrum and 22 minutes of fun. It is, without a doubt, now the most stressful time of my week. I spend over half the class calming her, cajoling her to do what her teacher tells her to, and convincing her to stay with the group, wait her turn, and do what she's asked. She fights the warm up and stretching with the vehemence of someone who is flashing back to a past life, and in that past life was tortured on a stretching board. She spies something in the obstacle course (the slide, the mini tramp, the climbing mats) and screams, trying to get to them right then. She loves the trampoline, beam and bars - until she is supposed to be there, doing something specific.

Add in the fact that Madison has now joined the preschooler class, which starts after Reagan's. This means that Madison is in the gym while I participate in Reagan's class, playing with some small toys (she is currently the only kid doing this, so we don't want her alone in the waiting room). The fact that her sister is in the same room, playing with toys, and Reagan is not able to play with her is just fueling the fire.

After this weekend I had just had enough. I was so done with paying for the privilege of warding off meltdowns and calming the meltdowns I couldn't prevent. I was done with fighting her.

So I made a snap decision and pulled her.

Adam was in shock when he got home and I told him Reagan had her last class for a while. He sees her climbing and tumbling and jumping and swinging at home and can't imagine that she wouldn't love it there. Most people I've told are surprised since tiny, nimble Reagan seems like the kind of kid who would adore this sort of thing.

But here's the thing - I don't think she's out forever. She loves the actual activity, but she isn't a toddler who enjoys the structure of a class, and with a class full of almost 3 year olds, that's the way it is. And in a gym, that's the way you stay safe. Letting a two year old do her own thing on regulation sized apparatus is probably asking for a lawsuit.

So I'm going to give her a break. I'm going to push pause. I'm going to let her watch Madison participate, play on the floor of the waiting room, and decide whether or not she misses it. Once she realizes she doesn't get to do it, she might decide again that she wants to do it (she's going to be that kind of kid). Honestly, I think summer is the best time to do that. In the fall, hopefully, she'll be talking well enough and have matured past the NO stage enough where I'll actually get an answer out of her.

I don't think this is a debate about whether or not kids should be in classes and if we're pushing too fast. I don't think any kids in Reagan's class are hoping to begin their Olympic dream. Madison started dance when she was the age Reagan is now, and she loved it. Sometimes, kids do well with structure. Sometimes, they don't.

We'll see how I feel next Saturday, when I get one child ready for gymnastics without a struggle, and send Madison in but never have to enter the actual gym myself. We'll see if Reagan reacts at all when she doesn't put on her leotard or go in.

Maybe she'll be relieved. Maybe she'll be mad. Maybe she won't react at all.

But no matter what, I'm glad we pushed pause.
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