When my first son was a toddler,
our schedule was a whirlwind of gym classes, swim lessons and other
activities. At first, it was a way to get out of the house. After the early
days of being cooped up with a colicky baby, I was happy to plunk down a monthly
fee to sit on brightly colored mats and sing "The Wheels on the Bus," complete with hand motions.
My little one had other ideas,
though. Despite my careful packing of the diaper bag with wipes and sippy cups,
putting on clean clothes (on him and myself), his 18-month-old mind wanted to
be anywhere but "circle time" — except during the last five minutes of class,
when the little ones were supposed to explore the play equipment by themselves. That's when my son would suddenly become like Velcro to my stretch pants.
Listen up, new moms. With the
benefit of 10 years of hindsight, I have something to tell you: Your toddler
doesn't really need that Mommy and Me class. Yes, they're great for socialization ... but most often it's we mothers who need that contact.
As a new stay-at-home
mom, I was going stir-crazy. Before having a baby, my office was my main source
of daily chitchat. Having a class to go to every Wednesday morning at 10 gave
me some structure and a goal for the day, if not the week. When I had plans to
be somewhere at a certain time, I'd ignore the insistent toddler demands and
take some time for self-care, taking a shower, putting on clean yoga pants,
maybe even blow drying my hair.
If it weren't enjoyable for him, who was it fun for?
But all my son wanted was
one-on-one time with me.
I'd often come home from the tot classes
frustrated and exhausted from the Sisyphean task of trying to get an unwilling
toddler to participate in an activity that was supposed to be fun and
developmentally appropriate. But if it weren't enjoyable for him, who was it fun
for? Certainly not me. I can think of better ways to spend my time and money
than to sitting in a room that smells of formula and diapers, contracting all
the freshly mutated strains of childhood viruses.
Yes, socialization is important for
new moms. The extroverted types feel like they're being deprived of oxygen
without human contact, and even us introverts need to have some organized
opportunities to come out of our shells.
So here's my advice: Choose activities
that feed your interests and surround yourself with other moms you like. If
you're a yogini, find a studio that offers family classes — or even better,
good childcare. Literary? Check out the story hour at the local library.
They're usually free and you'll meet other parents who can talk about books
that don't have any shades of gray.
After a while, I stopped enrolling
my firstborn in toddler classes. I found groups of mom friends through
playgroups, church activities and even just hanging out at the local coffee
shop. I sang songs and danced with my little during the normal course of our
day, and he didn't become an antisocial misanthrope. At age 3, I signed him
up for preschool, and after the first few tearful days, he was able to overcome
his attachment to me and was able to sit still in circle time — all by himself.