Our physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist all recommended that we put the girls in gymnastics quite a few months ago. At the time, I really didn't think they could handle the separation and we had a lot going on with appointments and therapies. Plus, the available classes were during lunch and nap times. We just weren't ready.
One of the girls favorite friends, ML, signed up for gymnastics at the local Armory and loved it (and she does NOT like being away from her mama). Another good friend gave the girls her old leotards (thanks, Caitlyn!). The cost for classes is very reasonable compared to the copays of therapy. The girls have started to cut back on their nap time. Mama is needing a break from her little darlings. The girls are at a point where it is time to stretch their comfort zone a little bit and give them some independence from Mama. Soooooo, we went and watched one of ML's classes. At the end, the girls were both chanting, "Weh deeee! Weh deeee!" (ready) indicating they were ready to try and sign up. C showed some apprehension and told me she was scared, but only after I signed them up for the trial class.
They were frightened the day of, but their desire to wear a leotard and be like ML overpowered their fears and they soldiered on to the mat, stone-faced and silent. I wanted to cry.
I'd asked them to stick together and for FL to use her words and sounds and for C to help her if no one could understand.
(C is in light pink w Capri pants "Dees jus' wook sooo cute on me, Mama!" and FL is in the crushed velvet, multi-colored little leotard w no pants, per her instructions)
They looked over their shoulders every two seconds for reassurance every time the instructor asked them to do something. I just kept smiling and signing "look" and "listen". Between swimming, art, horses and other things, I've taught a lot of children. Nothing prepares you for this side, does it? Especially when your child thinks they might get hurt, you might be leaving them or giving them to someone else... I know it sounds so melodramatic, but these are things we always have to consider.
FL told her instructor she wanted mama a few times during warm up and totally gave her the cold shoulder and refused to hold her hand. This is actually good because I've taught them to let Sam and I to meet their needs and it shows some good attachment despite all of my mistakes!
And then they marched off to a little exercise room with a bar and rings. There's a window to the room, but they can't see through it. It was hard to watch them fight through their anxiety quietly while they sat and did the exercises. At one point, FL got up, marched over to the instructor and said, "WANT MAMA. BIG HUG." They said, "Hey, how about a teddy bear?"
And just like that, I was replaced. By a smelly, old teddy bear. A teddy bear that she danced with all over the gym instead of sitting and waiting her turn... A teddy bear that she plopped onto the balance beam despite the fact that he was in the way of others... A teddy bear that wore her name tag on his face, neck, arms and legs alternately until it just wouldn't stick anymore. Oh, Lin Lin. I love that you are never afraid to be you, even if that means breaking the rules, not listening, embarrassing your sister and dancing like a loon with a smelly, old teddy bear on a balance beam. ; )
After their time in the room, they came out to the balance beams. The balance beams are far, far, far, FAR away from the mamas. It's all stratigically worked out this way, I'm sure. But gosh it was far! Too far to wave, smile or shout encouragement.... For a little perspective, the picture below is of C and FL on the balance beams. Can't see them?! That's because they are on the complete opposite side of the gym.
Far, far, far away from the mamas.
Did I mention they were far away from me?!
Ok, here's a picture I cropped so you can see.
Now they are walking sideways. They seemed to keep up just fine with the other children, even with C's weak side. You gotta love that little belly poking out on FL!
They had a little obstacle course for them to hop, tumble and jump through. They girls both did well. The frog jumps onto the foam blocks where hard, but they both just about had it by the end.
Though C has expressed excitement and anxiety about gymnastics alternately since the trial class, we are going forward. I plan on getting there early when the class starts back up to walk the area with her. She has also expressed needing to take a hug from mama with her during the class. For those in the future with anxious littles like mine, I plan on drawing a heart with "M" for mama and "C" for Charlotte on her hand. FL requested the same. I've also given them little felt hearts to take with them other places, so I might cut some out for them to tuck in the neck of their leotards.
They not only got exercise, but they had to listen, remember, follow instructions, wait and take turns.
And just like that, it was over! Everyone got a little stamp on their foot (C called the stamps "footprints"! Cute!) and was sent back to the mamas! Yay!
I can see a little anxiousness and tiredness on one little face... I had to stop the pictures for hugs and smiles, though. There were happy shouts of, "I did it!" and some "miss mama"s, but I thought they did really well. C was very anxious upon reflection. FL said she thought she could be "big girl" and go without the bear, her dancing partner, next time. ; )
This girl is high on life and low on sleep!
I asked for a still picture with her mouth closed and this is what I got...
We will see how it all works. Currently, the girls are playing gymnastics at home, bouncing, pulling up on everything and doing forward rolls every chance they get, so they seem happy about the class. Though it is hard for all of us, it is time to start stretching our comfort zones a little bit. This is all good stuff. : ). I am looking forward to not being the person teaching and pushing my children in something new. I am looking forward being the one on the sidelines praising, encouraging and cheering them on. I am looking forward to welcoming them back into my arms with hugs and "you did it!"s and "I'm so proud of you for trying!" and all that other good stuff.
I'll keep you posted!