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Why Are You Doing This?

Brenda and her 3-year-old, Jasmyn, show up to a toddler gymnastics class. Jasmyn is in a sparkly leotard and has her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She looks excited and a little nervous because she has been looking forward to this class for a few weeks. They walk into the gym where there are many other children. Some are walking on balance beams, some jumping on trampolines, some flipping around bars with the help of a coach. It looks so fun.

When it is time for Jasmyn to sit with her coach and the other kids, she clings to her mother. Brenda encourages her daughter to join the coach but this makes Jasmyn child cling harder to her mother. Brenda starts to feel impatient as her daughter hides behind her. Brenda gets angry and Jasmyn stomps her foot. The mother threatens that they will leave and Jasmyn pouts and remains silent. She is still hiding but also watching all the things that are happening in the gym.

Both the mother and the child are in a bind. The mother doesn’t want to leave. She has paid money for the class and she knows the child will enjoy it once she joins in. The child wants to join in but it’s all so new and exciting and scary. Both feel overwhelmed and aren’t sure what to do next.

At any of these junctions, we have a chance to stop, observe, figure out what our child might need and change course. In the moment, though, this is hard. This parent may be feeling pressure because she is worried about all the other parents watching her and about the money she spent on the class. She may be feeling anxious that her daughter won’t actually like the class and wondering if she made a bad decision enrolling her. Maybe she worries that her daughter isn’t ready for something like this and they should just go home where it feels safer and more known.

Brenda decides to sit with her daughter on the benches and they watch together. Jasmyn is acclimating herself to this new environment. Brenda is just trying to figure this out and buy herself some time.

Brenda puts her arm around her daughter, holding her, and takes a breath. Tentatively she says, “I wonder if this feels a little scary because it’s new.”

Jasmyn looks at her mother with big eyes. She nods her head.

The mother says, “Would you like to sit here with me for a bit until you’re ready?”

Within a short time, Jasmyn is animated watching the other children. She is bouncing in her seat and her eyes light up with all the movement. Brenda walks her daughter out to join in the with class and this time there is no resistance. Just joy.

The mother walks back to the bench and waves to her daughter.