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."
"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?"
"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?"
"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.