Friday, March 2, 2012

Daddy and Me

We did it. Alice and I had our last rec. center baby toddler gymnastics class yesterday. Buckling her helmet and strapping her into her bike seat was a bit more emotional than I had anticipated. Eight weeks ago, we set out together (with some daddy trepidation) to our little trial of our city’s rec. center offerings to see if it would be something we’d like to do more of in the coming terms. At the time of sign-ups, Alice was bumping into everything, and had that infamous two-tooth-strike day she had back in December, so a nice and safe (padded) room with lots of things to jump and play on sounded like just the ticket for this effort. 

I had spent far too long in our insular world, just me and Alice, controlling everything about it, doing everything we needed/wanted in exactly the way in which we saw fit. It had occurred to me that I may be stifling her social growth and keeping her from organized social activities because of my own reluctance to “mommy and me” programs. And, like every big change in my life, I decided I was going to join a mommy and me class. And guess what? I really, truly enjoyed it.

The gymnastics class was about what I had expected from a civic recreation center—a large classroom with those bright blue and yellow fold-up foam mats covering the entire floor, a few modest apparatuses to jump, climb, flip on. But it was perfect for us. The instructor and other kids were just a delight to get to know and play with. We lucked into a class with only two other kids, so it was really small and intimate. Leaving today, I felt for the first time, Alice had made two little friends. Casual acquaintances at best, but two kids she was able to see repeatedly in the same spot each week. And I felt the same for the instructor and wonderful nannies who accompanied the two little ones.

she loved rolling around in this big egg.

At the start of our first class, Alice was hesitant to walk out on the mats. I had flashes of what I remember of my first day of Kindergarten. That feeling of being dropped into a world you’re ready for, but don’t want to leave the old world, or say goodbye to the person you love and depend on. All of that faded quickly for Alice and before the end of our first 45-minute class, she was hard at work on her somersaults, trampoline jumping (still her favorite apparatus), and hanging from a bar, to name a few. But most importantly of all, she was having fun. And I was having fun doing it with her. I was having fun at a mommy and me class. 

Each week went by, always having something on the calendar to look forward to with her. Thursday: 10:45am Baby Gym at the rec. center. I found it remarkably refreshing and almost responsible to have some place to be. Mind you, I still work my tail off morning, noon, and night professionally—while caring for Alice—so it’s not as if I’m slacking here. It was just nice to have an actual, commitment on the books to get to. Kind of how normal people do. 

A few weeks in, we started riding our bike to class. No matter what kind of day I’m having, or how difficult Alice is being, when we get on that bike, it all fades away. It is impossible to not be happy riding a bike in the sunshine with a little girl in the tiny seat in front. I cannot believe the number of smiles and positive words we get passing other people on our route. Especially funny to me are the “awwws”, points and whispers of the teenage girls at the high school we ride by. It’s hard to not feel like that’s the most fun you can ever have with your kid. Simple joy.

Each Thursday came, and every class, Alice was a little bit bigger, a little more talkative, more eager to try new things. She was the youngest in her class so she had some trouble with the coordination and strength exercise, as well as the moments that tested her short toddler attention span, but that’s okay. Where she is today, at least partly because of this class, is a much more mature and capable little girl. And as a kid, I wasn’t ever particularly good or competitive in athletics. I enjoyed playing them, but wasn’t at any sort of league level, so I have a very soft and nurturing spot in my heart for my own child to just go out and have fun. If she’s super talented like her mama, I’ll be there cheering her on. If she’s more like me and likes to keep it fun and relaxed, I’ll be out in the back yard teaching her how to throw a baseball like a boy.

Baby Gym from Growing Up Senge on Vimeo.

At the end of yesterday’s class, we all lingered a bit, seemingly pretending that we’d all see each other again next Thursday before saying our goodbyes to our new friends, buckling up and hopping back on the bike. It’s tough not to be sad about this experience ending. This was the first thing Alice and I did together. I saw her grow so much, and have so much fun. But after all, this is just the first thing we did together. We’re thumbing our way through the Spring term classes right now: music? dance? sign language? So many fun things to think about doing, just daddy and me.


  1. Jon, your post inspired me to look through our local rec center offerings. I found lots of interesting classes, but when I tried to register, I was told that they were cancelled!

    I will keep trying though - I think Eli would love a gymnastics class like the one you two were attending.

    What special memories you are making with Alice!

    1. Oh, that's terrible! I wonder if it's budget-related. Our city allows non-residents to register, though for a slightly higher enrollment fee, maybe a few bucks more. Surrounding cities might have a similar deal up near you. Shop around and maybe you guys will find something close-ish by. There are always the private gymnastics places, but they're pretty pricey, especially if you're looking for something real casual like we were.

      Hopefully the L-town rec department will open its stuff back up.

    2. Some of the classes in our program said they needed so many registrants by such and such date, or would be canceled. I wonder if it's a similar issue. Bummer, though. The Livermore Parks & Rec department usually has lots of really great stuff, especially for kids!


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