Ellen Nordberg, Author

Mommy and Me²

Colorado Babies

As a stay-at-home mother of energetic three year old twin boys, the discovery of “Mommy and Me” classes made me happier than non-chafe nursing pads. I’d get out of a house so baby-proofed I couldn’t watch my own TV, and the boys would get exercise.

We started with “Mommy and Me Yoga,” and a young male instructor doing animal poses. Everyone arched their backs and roared like lions. A great start!

Soon though, my enthusiastic boys were taking their cranes, camels, and cobras on safari with increasing volume. At the point where Aidan’s “monkey” jumped on Axel’s “horse” and they whooped around like caffeinated Orangutans, the teacher decided we needed to practice stillness. He corralled the boys back to their mats, telling them to lie motionless for one minute. Definitely a set up for failure.

As my family tromped out of the yoga room in an active version of the donkey pose, I thought about how I had wasted thirty bucks. If I’d wanted a futile attempt at making my kids “practice stillness,” I could have stayed home and zipped them into their crib tents.

Next I signed us up for toddler gymnastics, where we found a teenage girl monitoring the activity stations. The boys quietly took their places in the trampoline line. But once onboard, they re-created a Hulk Hogan worthy smack-down match which involved chest slams with wall rebounds until the loser was shot off the trampoline like a human cannonball into the balance beam, where a three year old girl in a lavender tutu was blown backwards onto her mother.

I apologized, and the attendant handed the girl a balloon. I steered the boys to the tunnels and bridges, and made an attempt to befriend a sympathetic looking mom. The conversation was going well until a sidelong glance caught a commotion in the area of the Hippity-Hops-shaped-like-barn-animals.

Without my glasses on, I thought perhaps the boys had started a healthy Hippity Hop competition (who could go the farthest? Stay on the longest?) But no. It became clear my children were hoisting yellow and blue Hippity horses into the air and bashing them down on each other and some random boy while laughing maniacally. A ring of horrified mothers encircled them, as if held back by invisible crime scene tape.

As I pulled the boys off their new friend, they chanted in unison, “He wouldn’t share! He wouldn’t share!”

“They wanted the orange pig,” the boy’s mother announced. “They asked him for a turn, and he said no. It’s his choice,” she declared. Then she squinted at me and added, “You might consider getting them tested.”

Having hammered the idea into my kids that not sharing was never an option, I wondered if this family had just landed from Neptune. I scolded my boys that it’s never ok to hit someone, wondered what in the hell kind of testing she thought my children needed, and then considered whacking her with the orange rubber pig myself. I hauled my children to the car again. Maybe gymnastics was just too physical.

Our next experiment, the “Music for All of Us” class, was taught by a young female who apparently had never actually met any children. Several tiny kids sat politely in front of their mothers, tapping on miniature tambourines, while the instructor sat on a stage strumming her guitar and over-enunciating the words to Kum Bay Yah as if the crowd were hearing impaired.

My boys turned their backs on this passive tableau, grabbed pumpkin sized noise shakers, and danced a furious flamenco like Ricky Martin on crack.

The mothers kept a deliberate forward gaze, congratulating themselves for the superior manners and compliance of their children.

I got hold of the noise makers, but then Aidan was on the stage yelling, “My turn! My turn!” while attempting to wrestle the guitar from the teacher’s hands. As I ran to pry Aidan’s fingers from the strings (and the instructor’s hair,) Axel was already banging on a giant drum with his shoe in a frenzied state reminiscent of Animal in The Muppet Movie.

The mothers glared openly, and muttered what sounded like “not able to control her kids.” I got Axel under one arm and Aidan by his overalls, and hauled them (one more time) to the car.

I was resigned to my status as a “Mommy and Me” flunk-out, when I saw a flier for a mom and baby swim class. I signed up with trepidation.

When we entered the pool area for class, I scanned for hazards. Could they drown? Crack their heads on the wet tiled deck? Get limbs or tongues sucked into the intake vents?

As it turned out, water was the perfect place. Clad in rubber diapers, no accident would ruin the boys’ fun (or mine.) Singing and splashing were encouraged, and kicking your brains out like an insane dolphin from the Sponge Bob Squarepants show was rewarded. I let the helpful and patient instructor sign us up for three months in advance.

We never made it back to any land-based Mommy and Me classes, but I’ve since decided to embrace the rambunctious nature of my children, and develop a thicker skin. The green and red Hippity Hop cows I bought were a big hit under the Christmas tree. And they offered me a few moments of peace so I could child-proof the cupboards above my refrigerator.


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