Mommy and Me Gymnastics

Jameson is in a Mommy and Me gymnastics class that meets once a week for about 50 minutes. This is our second round in the class after taking the month of January off due to illness (Ben and I were down for the count but somehow Jameson stayed healthy!)

The first month in gymnastics went fairly well. Jameson tackled each new skill to the best of his ability, and more often than not, he surpassed my expectations. From walking on the balance beam to hanging from the uneven bar and holding a pike position, I figured we’ll give it a go but I didn’t think he’d be able to do many of the skills on his own. Golly, was I wrong! With a little support from the teacher and I, he managed most of the skills, if not all.

This particular Mommy and Me class incorporates stations with hand-eye coordination activities, sensory objects, and color matching, along with skills like a tuck jump on a trampoline, a backwards somersault over a foam cylinder, or a donkey kick station to try out a handstand ending in a stand up and “Ta-da” moment.

All of these activities from the floor, to the beam, to the sensory stations allow Jameson to challenge both his body and his mind. I can see his wheels turning when he’s asked to try something new. No one in the class assumes Jameson can’t, they all assume he can and give him the space to do.

If anyone thinks, I’m not so sure he can handle that, it’s me. And when that thought comes to mind, guilt quickly follows. Giving Jameson the freedom to try makes all the difference in the world, for him and for me.

The Mommy and Me class setup is both good and bad. I love being there to support Jay and guide him as needed, and corral him when he’s running to a different area of the gym, but sometimes I think he’d do even better if I weren’t there. You know the feeling … sometimes our kids act out for us more than they ever would for someone else.

It can be frustrating and exhausting, mentally draining, and sometimes embarrassing. At the class I am focused on Jameson more so than other times of the day. I am hypersensitive to his behavior, his mood, his willingness (or total disregard) to listen and follow directions, and how he interacts with the other kids, parents, and the teacher. I worry that he’s being disruptive and we’re distracting other kids when he’s rolling like a pinball away from me. I stress about how the other parents see me as a parent when I’m trying to calmly explain that we need to wait our turn but so frustrated I feel like I could burst. I wonder if the other kids in the class get upset when they have to wait a little longer to allow for Jay to tackle a skill. There’s a lot of comparing that takes place and it is so hard not to get bogged down in the “that little boy is the same age and he’s not making a break for it…”  

Fast forward to our first Thursday back to class after a month off. How did it go you ask? We left early and didn’t stay for free play! Jay was all over the place and my patience went from he’s a toddler to nonexistent.

The class started off fairly smooth, as most outings generally do. Jay joined in the opening stretch sequence and danced around to an upbeat animal song with the three other kids, their parents, myself, and the teacher. Then it was time for the floor portion of the class. A series of stations were set up and each kid/parent duo tasked with flowing through in order. This is how round one went … there are three rounds.

  • Skill one: Lie down on your back on the mat and roll into a ball, tuck in your chin and count to 5. Check! Jameson did that no problem.
  • Skill two: Push a small plastic rectangle across the floor with your hands and keep your knees off the ground. Sort of check … knees down, but the pushing motion was achieved! 
  • Skill three: Put your feet on the stars against the wall and lift your butt up off the ground. “Come on Jameson, look, here, watch mom, see, you can do it. …argh, Jay, Jameson!” We skipped this skill as he crawled with amazing speed toward the trampoline. 
  • Skill four: Tuck jumps on the trampoline and “freeze” with hands on knees. Check with a good bit of rolling around on the trampoline included. “Ok, it’s someone else’s turn. Jay, we have to move on. Jameson, come on honey! Jay!” as I took his hand and pulled him over to the next station. 
  • Skill five: Balance on one leg. Check while holding both of mom’s hands for balance support. 
  • Skill six: Follow the pattern on the floor. Jump and step legs out, jump feet together, jump feet out, jump feet together. Jameson’s version was more of a kick, pick up and throw the pattern, plop down and roll back to belly across the floor. I stood, took a deep breath, put the pattern back in place for the next kid, and went for his hand to pull him back to standing. He wriggled, fighting with me for what felt like minutes but what was likely only a few seconds. And of course, to me it felt like all eyes in the room were on us, over there in the middle of the floor making a scene. 
  • Skill seven: Cartwheel over a small rectangle box. I was able to get him to touch the box, but he wanted nothing else to do with it. 
  • Skill eight: Handstand against the wall with your hands resting on stars on the floor. Like a rocket, Jay made a b-line for the play area and tunnel. He’s so fast when he wants to be! I snatched his foot just before he disappeared inside. We didn’t even attempt a handstand. 

Round two … we tuck and rolled and managed the trampoline. Round three … a good amount of chasing ensued.

After the floor, the group moved to the balance beam area. Jameson rocked the big beam holding my hand and the teacher’s hand and walked one foot in front of the other from front to back. Balance is a tough skill. Walking one foot in front of the other is a tough skill. He made it through two rounds of beam pretty well but on the third round, he had had enough.

“The itsy bitsy spider …” I tried to sing to get his attention and refocus his energy. He sat and sang the song with me, doing the motions, and enjoying the focused attention. One of the other mom’s said, “He really likes music, huh?” I just smiled and tried to keep his attention. But it was short lived. As soon as the song ended, I tried to go into a verse of “head shoulders knees and toes” and he bolted, running to the other side of the room with me chasing after him yet again.

“Jay, honey,” I said as calmly as I could while pulling him into a hug. “Everyone is over there. Don’t you want to go on the beam again?” He signed all done and we wrestled as he fought to break free from me.

He rolled away and bumped his head on the play area wall. “Ouch” he said as he patted his head with his hand and I thought to myself, well I hope that hurt, settle down and pay attention! Do I feel bad for thinking that, hell yes. At the time, I just wanted him to settle down and sit still for a bit, and if a bonk on the head by his own doing did the trick, well so be it. Of course, it didn’t. No fear for Mr. Jameson!

By the time we got to the uneven bars, Jay and I had spent quite a bit of time fighting against one another – Jay for freedom to do as he wished and me trying to get him to participate in the class. Jay only sat still in the uneven bar area for a few seconds. When one of the other little ones jutted their arm out to try to stop Jay from crawling away, it set me over the edge.

I snatched him up, put on his coat and boots and booked it out of there without even saying goodbye to the other parents or the teacher. Then, I cried in the car. It was a moment where I felt overwhelmed and less-than in so many ways.

It was not my best. And, it certainly wasn’t Jay’s best moment either. But he had some wins in the class that I reflected on right then and there: the mat ball tuck your chin and count exercise, the balance beam walking front to back, the opening song participation, and the pure joy emitted from his every cell while in the space of the gym.

There’s a lot going on in there. Stations set up, mats, beams, bars, rings, hula hoops, rubber bands, a foam pit, a jungle gym, and play tunnels. And, Jay is a toddler! They run, crawl, wiggle, push limits, test, can be stubborn, etc.

Here’s something Mommy and Me gymnastics has taught me: Jameson is so much stronger than I ever realized. Physically and mentally. I cried when we left early because I felt so overwhelmed. Did Jay cry? Nope. Instead, in the car strapped into his car seat, he sat quietly and then I heard the softest, “Momma?” and when I looked back at him he gave me the biggest smile and stretched his arms out toward me as if to give me a hug.

He’s so in-tune with people. He observes and he loves fully. In that moment, he knew what I needed. I only hope he gets the same from me in his moments of need. <3

We’ll go to gymnastics again and I plan to stay for the whole thing regardless of how the experience makes me feel. The class is really meant for Jay: to learn, to interact with other kids, to take directions and listen or at least attempt to do so, to share, to get to know his own body and strength, to play and explore.

Is taking Jameson to a gymnastics class while not knowing how it will go an easy thing to do? No. But it is worth it. He’s learning and I’m learning. Together we’re trying new things, building our strength, and challenging one another to be better for ourselves and each other. Jameson is meant to be, and so am I. <3

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