We quickly discovered that the kids in the 3-5 year old class are expected to participate on their own with no parents present. The parents are banished to the foyer and watch the class through the glass windows. This was going to take some getting used to, because Penny takes a while to warm up to new people and new situations, and I would rather have her participate and have fun than refuse to do anything and waste everyone's time (and our money). Another discovery we made is that the teacher is not particularly warm and fuzzy, which is just her personality, although it doesn't make much sense to me, if your profession is teaching small children complicated skills. So let's just say that the first couple of classes were nothing short of disastrous. Penny refused to do anything unless I was in the room with her, helping her. She freaked out the first time the teacher touched her to assist with a maneuver, and had a complete meltdown when the teacher told her not to go in a certain direction and that she had to stay on the mats.
This is so much fun for everyone! After these classes, I really debated whether or not to keep going. Part of me thought, Hey, this is supposed to be a fun, positive experience, not a negative, stressful one. The teacher is kind of strict — It's not like this is Romania — I don't expect Penny to be a gold medalist or anything. I just want her to gain confidence and coordination. So I decided that quitting would send Penny the wrong message — when things are hard, just quit! When you have personality clashes with teachers, just walk away! No.
So, before the fourth class, we had a little chat. I said, it's the teacher's class, and you have to follow her rules. When she tells you what to do, you're not in trouble, you just have to do what she says. Followed by, "One of the rules is that the parents are supposed to watch from outside the class." To which Penny said, "Ok, Mama." And then she rehearsed this dialogue to herself as we drove to class. When we got there, she wouldn't go in the room without me, so I said, "I will go in with you, but you need to do everything yourself." And she did. And then, for the second part of class, I watched from the outside and she sweetly waved to me from the inside.
And do you know what? She CAN DO IT. She tried all the moves and let the teacher help her do somersaults. She rocks the balance beam! I watched her little face light up each time she did a dismount. And then I felt so ambivalent. I want her to do everything independently. But at the same time, it feels like the beginning of my obsolescence. I know that's really melodramatic. Of course she's always going to need me, but not for everything anymore. And that makes me proud and sad and happy all at the same time. I'm going to lose it when she starts school.
P.S. We are definitely doing gymnastics again next summer. And the teacher is really growing on me. I totally get why parents are supposed to stay out of the way; the kids do better without us.