10 July 2011

Painted Wings and Giant Rings

My parents stumbled onto My Gym over a year ago, and Eamon has been going since before he could walk. He went through the “Tiny Tykes” and the “Waddlers” onto the “Gymsters” and has just graduated to the “Terrific Tots.”

And boy, is the Terrific Tots different. In all the previous levels, the instructors have a variety of activities bookended by two 5-10 minute “Circle Times.” During Circle Time, the parents sit in a big circle on the floor, children on laps, and the instructor sings songs and plays games while the parents attempt to get their children to play along. Some do, but most sit there looking a little confused or daydreaming in their own little worlds. Sometimes the kids wander away completely, and no one really comments.

In Terrific Tots, however, the children sit on a mat. By themselves. The parents are nearby, but not actively clutching the children like in the previous levels. The instructor explains the directions while the children listen, and then (here is the fun part) wait their turn to participate in the activity. And if a child gets off the mat, the instructor stops everything and reminds the child to wait patiently on the mat.

So when my mother told me that Eamon was being promoted into the Terrific Tots class, I admit that I had my doubts. Eamon is…well, a 3 foot tall ball of energy. It’s not that he can’t focus…it’s actually just that he finds almost everything interesting and wants to explore all of it. He wants to meet everyone and enjoy all that life has to offer…and I just wasn’t sure how that was going to fit in with him sitting still on a mat and listening to directions.

When my mom called me right after the new gym class with her report, I didn’t have high hopes. But Eamon came through with flying colors. He only had to be reminded to sit on his mat twice, and each time got back on the mat quickly and quietly (like he really had plain forgotten, not that he was being defiant). He listened to all the directions, did his best in all the activities, and apparently charmed everyone after doing a hand-stand (with assistance) by standing up afterwards, throwing out his arms gymnast style and exclaiming, “TADAAAA! Eamon did it!”

Even so, I was pretty sure that it might have been a fluke. A one-time thing because the class was new and he was around older children he wanted to impress.

This past Friday, I took him to the gym myself, back to his old Gymsters class because the Friday Terrific Tots class is full.

When the instructors called Circle Time, Eamon ran over and sat on the circle without even waiting for me. As the instructor went through the routine, he listened and followed every single direction…without any help from me. He laughed when she told a joke, he answered when she asked a question.

I watched the other moms and dads, wrestling with their 2 year olds, trying to help them understand that it was time to jump (Eamon had already been hopping for a good minute), or to stand on their beanbag (Eamon did this immediately, turned to me and shouted, “Where it go, Mommy? All gone!” then opened his feet and yelled, “Dere it is!”), or to sit and listen to the story without wandering away (Eamon planted himself front and center in front of Miss Allison and watched the entire story with rapt attention).

And I realized…Eamon is a Terrific Tot.

For all you parents out there, you probably already know how it feels, when you realize that your child is stepping out of Toddlerhood and into the Little Kid Era. The overwhelming pride (“That’s my little man!”). The gigantic sense of relief (“Thank heaven we made it through!”). The thrill of excitement (“Think about all the things we can do now!”)

And the tiny but tenacious thread of despair as you realize that every day he becomes more independent, he needs you just a little less.

The other day before bedtime, I was reading Eamon a story called Where is Baby's Birthday Cake? I tried to insert the word “Eamon” instead of “baby.”

“No, mommy,” Eamon said pointedly. “BABY. Not EAMON.”

“But you’re my baby!” I said.

Eamon just shook his head. “No baby, mommy.”

“Then what are you?”

He responded without hesitation, “Eamon. I EAMON.” He then looked at me as if I was an idiot, not knowing who my own kid was, a look I expect I’ll be getting more and more often.

So I finished reading the book, word-for-word as written.

But secretly, defiantly, whenever I read the word “baby” out loud, I thought, “Eamon” in my head. I then tucked him into bed, managed to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” (his favorite bedtime song) without crying or explaining the irony to my sleepy 2 ½ year old, and kissed my darling boy goodnight.

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