I'm so thrilled and excited - Jillian is learning gymnastics! Now whether she will follow in her Mommy's footsteps is probably more of a wait-and-see...
My cousin Laura emailed me a couple weeks ago to ask if Jillian and I wanted to join her and Emma (her 2-yr old daughter) for a Mommy & Me gymnastics class at a local gym. To be honest, gymnastics wasn't even on my radar yet! I was sure that I wanted to have Jillian take some classes eventually, but I figured that we'd wait until she was 2-2.5yrs old. Mainly so that she was mature enough to listen and understand directions and such. But I asked a friend of mine who used to be a coach, and she said that Jillian was the perfect age, since they would just be teaching fine and gross motor skills like climbing and balance and jumping - not tricks or anything. So, I emailed Laura back - YES, we'll sign up too!
Our first class was Tues 6/28. I was all sorts of excited - I was taking my daughter to gymnastics! And it was the first time I've been in a gym for a LONG time - probably 8 years. To be honest, I was looking forward to smelling the gym again. Something about the chalky haze, and the mats, and the equipment - it just has a comforting smell to me. But maybe it's b/c I spent 16 years of my life doing gymnastics. That kind of thing excites me :) Okay - back to the story. I picked Jillian up from school, changed her into her t-shirt and shorts (I couldn't find a leotard small enough), and we drove over. Luckily, I had a couple minutes to spare b/c I had to capture the moment for posterity... my sweet girl in her Shrek-tails on her first day of gymnastics.
Laura and Emma met us there, and soon we were wisked in to the gym by our coach, Miss Taylor. The first thing I noticed - oh my word, is it sweltering hot in here! It was easily 85-90 degrees in there, and no AC. I had forgotten that most gyms don't have AC. Or windows. Just lots of fans. BUT, the gym smelled just as I had expected :) So we get in and first order of business is to take attendance. I learned 3 things: that she was one of two kids that had never taken a class before, she was likely the youngest one there probably by 5 months (Jillian is 19 months), and that in a class of 6 kids, there are TWO Jillians! My Jillian sat still as I took her shoes and socks off. And looking back, that was probably the last time she sat still and was calm the whole 45 minutes.
Next, we lined up against the wall in front of a big mat. I honestly can't recall what we did at this point b/c my daughter took off running.
By the time I corraled her back to the group, we were being told to sit in a big circle. Oh good - fun stretching time. All the moms were sitting down, and their children were sitting sweetly in front of them, listening to Miss Taylor. My daughter wouldn't sit with me. She decided it was more fun to STAND in the middle of the circle. Now mind you, Miss Taylor is talking and giving instructions and telling us all to spread our legs wide and touch our toes, and wave like a tree, and bend forward, and bang your hands on the mat. And here I am: "Jillian! Jillian come here. Jillian come sit with Mommy please ::wrestling her down to a seated position:: Now bang your hands on the mat like this! Jillian! Watch what Mommy is doing. No, stay here. Jillian please!" Boy, that other little girl named Jillian must already be having a complex. And here Jillian is all "No!" and lots of whiny sounds to wrestle herself away and trying to run off b/c it's very clear that she wants to do things HER way. Miss Taylor is trying to engage Jillian too, and keep her calm, but that wasn't working either. We were 5 minutes in and I looked at Laura with desperation and said "I think we're going to be kicked out soon."
Next order of business - an obstacle course. YAY - something that we don't have to sit still for! All of the tasks were very new to Jillian, but she did great at climbing up mats and ladders, and swinging, and crawling and navigating her way around. And she even walked on a balance beam! But one thing was very clear - she didn't want Mommy to help her. But sorry sweetie - for the high-up things, you need to hold Mommy's hand. And she got frustrated very easily when she couldn't do things right (she gets that from her mom too!). I think that the obstacle course was exhausting for both Mommy AND Jillian! I had to lift her to alot of things, and help to support her for things like climbing a ladder and mats that were really tall. By the end of the class, Laura and I had both had a workout!
Next up - trampoline! Rule #1 though - only one person at a time on the trampoline. Oh no - I knew this was not going to go well. Jillian doesn't understand sharing and taking turns yet. While the others were on the tramp, Miss Taylor told us to try to practice putting the kids in handstands up against the wall to occupy them. My Jillian saw the first girl on the tramp, and there was nothing else that she was going to be focused on :) She squirmed and wriggled to get on that tramp too. The little girl's turn was over, and seeing what I was literally wrestling with, Miss Taylor said that it was Jillian's turn. She got up on that tramp by herself, and was all smiles. The heavens had opened, the angels sang, and she had found her thing! I loved watching her enjoy it so much - she was so happy! She can't jump up in the air yet, but she was bending her knees enough that the tramp helped her bounce. She loved it! But then it was someone else's turn - and meltdown #2 happened. I tried to distract her with practicing handstands, but she wanted no parts of it. She fell limp, she cried, she wriggled, she wouldn't sit, she made a break for it to get on the tramp - and then the heavens opened for Mommy... Miss Taylor said that more than one person could be on the tramp. Thank you! I totally felt bad for all the other moms and kids - my daughter was clearly acting out and monopolizing everything. None of the other kids were crying and they were all listening. Ugh.
Jillian was not happy at all when we had to come off the tramp, and kept running back over to it, and crying when I pulled her back to the group. I kept apologizing to Miss Taylor, and she was so nice saying that everything was okay. But it was obstacle course #2 time! The first obstacle was crawling thru a tunnel, I waited until all the other kids went first (we were the slowest ones) and Jillian finally was like "okay, I can do the tunnel". But the rest, she was not cool with. She wouldn't let me help her, she got frustrated, she wouldn't listen to me, she wouldn't look at me, she got more frustrated, she was melting fast, and crying. I could only think of one solution - I asked Miss Taylor if pacifiers were allowed. Thankfully, she said yes! Jillian's favorite thing in the world is her pacifier, so after a trip to our bag to get it, a long drink of water, and 'bibby' in her mouth, all was right with the world. We went through the obstacle course a second time, with less trouble, though still distraction (oh my - the tramp is over there! Let's go get it! and what's that thing those girls are running towards and jumping on? I want to go there too! and what's that huge blue floor? I want to run across that big blue floor too!).
We finally took a water break - Phew! Back to the air-conditioned lobby! Then we had about 5 more minutes of class. Miss Taylor decided to let the kids hop on the fast track, which is basically a long trampoline runway to practice tumbling. More bouncing - Jillian was in pig heaven! So it was a nice way to end the session.
So, what did we learn from our first gymnastics class?
1. Jillian likes to do things HER way, and isn't the best at paying attention. But you have to give her a break - she's only 19 months, and this is her first organized activity. Everything was new, and she was probably very overwhelmed. And it was hot. And it was dinner time. It really was a whirlwind, even for me.
2. Miss Taylor definitely knows Jillian's name. Jillian definitely made her presence known :)
3. Mommy needs to wear shorts and a ponytail next time - otherwise, it's too hot!
4. Mommy needs to try to slow things down and let Jillian go at her own pace. Let other kids go in front if we're slowing the line down. Encourage her more. Let her do things by herself if they are relatively safe.
So, the first class was a bit of a fiasco, but it was so much fun too. I was so proud of Jillian when she climbed up on the little balance beam by herself and started walking (and even not holding my hand!), and seeing the joy in her eyes when she would swing from a bar or jump on a trampoline. I really think that she is going to learn alot over the next 10 weeks, and she's really going to come into her own. And it's nice to be taking the class with Laura and Emma. The whole ride home and into the evening, Jillian kept saying "Umma, Umma, Umma". I really hope that they become close friends over the years!
Funny thing happened the next day though - we were in Jillian's bathroom getting ready for "Spa Day" (which is what we call 'taking a bath') and she looks up and sees the empty towel bar on the wall (I had washed the towels that day and not replaced them yet). Immediately, her hands go up in the air, and she's reaching like crazy to hang on the towel bar! Then the following day in the kitchen, she pulls out a drawer, and tries to hang from that! We've got a monkey on our hands....