Wednesday, June 25, 2014

FBW: Getting Ripped at the Baby Gym

Flogger Blogger Wednesday returns! You can stop your damn crying about it. I feel bad enough already about my baby's lack of six-pack abs.

So, baby gyms are for real.

Having spent 37 years of my life without a baby, I never gave much thought to baby gyms.

But I get it.

After a long day at your baby job, spent hunched in your windowless baby cubicle, filling out pointless baby reports, it must feel good to blow off some steam at the baby gym. Maybe put in an hour on the baby elliptical. Maybe try out baby strip aerobics.

Okay, I don't get it.

When I moved to the 'burbs, Pork Chop was 8 months old. I didn't know a soul. I was still up to my droopy bellybutton in new mom anxiety. I mistook every diaper rash for a jungle disease. I ran out of baby wipes and didn't know my way to the grocery store. Or to the liquor store. I felt like the dumbest dummy who'd ever dumbed.

Then the neighborhood moms took me in. They calmed my fears, showed me around town, and became my friends. They lulled me into a sense of security. And then they told me about the baby gym.

"It's a gym just for the kids," they exclaimed. "You have to sign up!"

"But Pork Chop's a baby. He can't even crawl, let alone use the StairMaster."

<crickets>

"It's for kids and babies, Jess. There are classes!"

"Classes. Okay. So they, what? They're gonna teach my 8-month-old how to tighten his glutes?"

<impatient crickets>

"Jess, c'mon. They teach socialization, music appreciation, confidence. All that stuff. Just sign up already."

"Do I have to be there while he lies on the floor like a pink slug and appreciates music?"

"Well, yeah."

"And it will cost me how much to have someone play music at my slug while I sit nearby probably not appreciating music?"

"It's like 60 bucks for each 4-week class."

"So 60 bucks per month?"

"Yeah. Plus, ya know, the membership fee, which is like 75 bucks."

"Are you serious? Do you know how much baby Ambien I can buy with that kind of money?"

<very, very judge-y crickets>

"It was I joke," I explained helpfully. Then adding, "But for realsies, why has no one invented baby Ambien, right?"

<the sound of crickets unfriending me on Facebook>

Truth is, I trust these women. I like these women a lot even. But I still can't bring myself to drink the baby gym Kool Aid.

I do a lot of things with my son, I've rationalized; it's just that taking him to a baby gym is not one of those things. We read books. We go for walks. We eat things. We read books. We go for walks. We, uh, drink water. We point at trucks while we go for walks. Lots of things. Oh, and Patty Cake! We do Patty Cake. We sing the "EIEIO" part of "Old MacDonald." So, yeah, so much stuff.

And I teach him things too. I totally teach him things. I taught him that saying "uh oh" will never un-fling the spaghetti, rice, or oatmeal. I taught him that forcefully grabbing mommy's boob is hurtful. (But that gently caressing her boob isn't quite right either.) I taught him that, yes, there is such a thing as biting one's own toe too hard. I taught him that eating Oreos for breakfast is only for grown ups. See there? Education!

Yet, despite all the stuff-doing and the educationing, I've felt a little guilty for holding out on my kid. What if Pork Chop turns into an uncoordinated non-sharer because I didn't pony up for a Waddlers Independent Movement Class? What if he never develops self-control or strategic decision making skills because I barred him from the Jazzy Beasts Dance Group? How the hell will he ever reach developmental milestones like kicking, clapping, or enjoying age-appropriate puppet shows without the loving guidance of trained baby gym professionals?

I bet the baby gym would have helped my son (and his grandma)
feel more confident in his vertical descent achievement skills.

So I decided to allay my concerns by doing some research, which involved never going to any baby gym and instead making wild inferences from shit I dug up on the Internet. And, like any good investigative journalist, my research came to an end as soon as I found something that validated my opinion. I present to you people's exhibit number 1, which I found on the Little Gym website:

Early participation in structured group activities that allow children to cultivate skills such as initiative, teamwork, and emotional regulation, can help children more effectively take on leadership roles . . . [Murphy, S.E., & Johnson, S.K. (2011). The benefits of a long-lens approach to leader development: Understanding the seeds of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 22:459-470]

Did you catch that? LEADERSHIP ROLES! My kid already dictates when I wake up, when I sleep, when I eat, when I bathe, and when I drink. Why the hell would I want him to become a more effective leader? I'll pass on Supreme Leader Toddler Jong Un.

There is no people's exhibit number 2.

Baby gyms: communist. I rest my case.

Look, mom friends, you want your kids to have every advantage, to be happy and smart, to have a head start on a sweet ripped bod. I want that for my son too. But, honestly, I kind of like our boring old walks around the block. Pork Chop points at airplanes, at trees, at passersby. I name what he sees. He repeats what I say. He picks up a rock or a pine cone. He gets covered in dirt or in pine tar. We squint and sweat under the June sun. We wander. Frankly, half the time I don't know where we're going. But my kid? I think he's right on track.

34 comments:

  1. This. Just all of this. Every single communist part of it.

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    1. Everyone knows that going to the gym is un-American.

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  2. Ok, I have to admit I'm a Little Gym fan. I've been taking both my kids since they were slugs laying on the red mat. I love it. But that doesn't mean I wasn't laughing my ass off at myself as I read this :-P

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    1. Don't tell, but I actually DO understand why folks go to the baby gym. I think it has a lot to do with breaking up the monotony of parenting babies and about making friends. But I just watched my kid try to climb into a bin of dog food, so I'm all for monotony.

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    2. I still want to understand. Not that we have another $75 a month laying around, but I'm still curious.

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    3. My husband signed up with our son because there are so few options for stay-at-home dads and he really needed to break up the monotony. Our town offers a discount if you sign up through them, so that helped a lot.

      But your description isn't that far off!

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  3. Literately laughing out loud at this. And the picture! It's priceless.

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    1. Yeah, as soon as I saw that picture, I knew I was going to sell out my kid and his grandma for cheap laughs. (And thanks.)

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  4. So funny. Laughed all the way through post. I shared your sentiments as I started at MyGym for what was supposed to be 4 weeks with a friend... That was 3 years ago... Sigh...

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    1. You drank the Kool Aid, Jenny. There's no going back. (And hey, if you and the kids enjoy it, then it's worth it. Even if it makes you a little bit of a communist.)

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  5. I'm 100% in agreement with this, and have been neglecting to help my baby advance socially and physically as well. He's atrophying in all aspects of babyhood right before my eyes, and I feel pretty fine about it. He's a baby! Also, not for nothing, but I call my 8 month old "Pork Chop" AND I referenced Jong Un in a recent blog post. I think you may be my human-form spirit animal.

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    1. Oh, "human form spirit animal" may be my new favorite turn of phrase. And I'm glad to know that my kid won't be the only atrophied kid on the playground (because human form spirit animals love company, or something like that).

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  6. Well, at least you're saving up money for therapy. :) Seriously, the only reason I ever did those classes with one of my kids was because I needed to get out of the house and meet people. And I only did them with my second (while my first was in preschool) because when my first was a slug, I was working full time. I see no difference between them. The whole thing is definitely a racket.

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    1. Well, as I've said to a few folks, the irony of it for me was that, had the neighborhood moms not befriended me, I probably WOULD have joined a baby gym. But because I had a posse, I never felt the need. And, really, gym or no gym, there's therapy in the future. I mean, have you seen this blog? My poor kid.

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  7. This was hysterical! I for sure signed up for all this stuff with my first two. By the next two-- no way.

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    1. I get the impression that making mom friends is a big part of the baby gym subculture. And, yes, I just said "baby gym subculture." You really can't underestimate the power of mom friends. But you also can underestimate my laziness or my social awkwardness.

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  8. Jess. This was so dead on, that I can't stand it! When I took Eugene and Ben to MyGym, I hated every germ ridden, sweaty, disgusting moment of it. I was pregnant with Ellen, so I was actually the sweaty and disgusting part of the situation, but honestly I always felt judged by the other moms. Stupid bitches. LOL. Sam is awesome! Just say no to baby gyms Sam. Love you, mean it.

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    1. Ya know, I try and write a nice slightly judgmental post, and you go and whip out the "stupid bitches." Dang. I would never call anyone a "stupid bitch" . . . on the Internet. Thanks for always leaving the most NSFW comments, sister. Hugs!

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    2. I didn't say that they were all stupid bitches, just the ones that seemed to be judging me. Which was all of them. LOL. Out of pity for you, I should just leave my posts as Anonymous, huh? Hugs back!

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    1. I like you too, Anonymous. And not just because you like me. But that helps.

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  10. Of course, the joke's on us as we still have to carry Pork Chop everywhere, no doubt because we were too cheap to sign him up for "Giant Noggin-Carrying Core Strength Poo-lates."

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    1. You don't get to be funnier than me unless you finally agree to write a guest post. ("Noggin-carrying core strength." HA!)

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  11. Poo-lates! That is hysterical. -you awesome sister-in-law

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  12. Absolutely, and amen Jessica! I couldn't agree with you more. Don't drink the Kool-Aid. This is why I have signed my kids up for nada this summer because I like our walks around the neighborhood and all that, too. Really enjoyed this post.

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    1. Thanks, Callie. As a kid, I walked everywhere. It's still one of my favorite pastimes. Pork Chop and I are pretty content taking in the sights, even if the sights are our suburban neighborhood.

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  13. I can't even tell you how much I love this. I fell victim to some baby gym-like classes when my son was tiny and they sucked, actually. Boring walks around the block are so much more productive. Here's to excellent research skills, Jess. :)

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    1. Yeah, I worked pretty hard to write a piece that was unbiased and factually sound. Not. :)

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  14. I have a 13 year old that never went to a baby gym. He is very well coordinated at this point in his life, though his leadership skills are lacking. If only I could go back in time...

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    1. Damn. MY leadership skills are lacking. Why didn't you take me to tumbling class, Mother, WHY???

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  15. When I got to the part about teaching your toddler not to gently caress your boobs, I had to laugh out loud. Sooooo truuuuue. And then I kept laughing. So glad to have "met" you via fb group!

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    1. Thanks, Beth! Glad to have "met" you too. Also glad (I think) that I'm not the only one whose kid has an awkward relationship with his mother's body parts.

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  17. Whatever you do, do NOT join Music Together. You will definitely not appreciate that music. I didn't do Toddler Gym but I did do Gymboree but when my kid was older. She could at least walk. I thought that was a prerequisite for gym class. And you are absolutely right about the kids' leadership skills. We don't want to encourage any more of that!

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