Forced Participation

by Courtney Sirotin on August 9, 2012

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I like to quietly (well, now publicly) pride myself on having my finger on the pulse of what there is to do with kids in whatever town I’m living in or visiting at the moment. When I lived in Cartersville I even wrote a weekly column for the local Patch listing weekend activities for kids. Since moving to Smyrna I have devoted a good amount of time and brain power to seeking out all the classes, parks, playgroups, stores, library story times, restaurants and special events available to Dylan. I’ll be honest in saying that while my main motivation is a desire to give him fun and unique experiences, tiring him out for his naps and bedtime comes in a close second.

In the past few weeks we have been going to a lot of free trial classes. We’ve attended two different tumbling/gymnastic venues, two different music classes, multiple story times, a few indoor playgrounds, community pools and a bunch of playgrounds. Having watched Dylan very much enjoy Kindermusik in Cartersville I have been eager to find a class, hopefully classes, that he enjoys just as much here. What I have learned, however, is that a class is only as good as the instructor. I won’t get into too many details, but one music instructor in particular was very cold and Dylan left her class in tears twice. Her policy was that if your child made a noise during “listening time” he had to leave the room. I don’t think I need to elaborate (they are toddlers, lady!). I will say, however, that utilizing free trial classes has saved me a lot of money!

Today we were scheduled for a trial at our local Gymboree. I had discovered the place by chance a week ago when I took Dylan to a cute kid’s salon called Pigtails and Crewcuts that was next door to the Gymboree. It was indeed a lucky find because when we walked in the door a friendly woman greeted us with name tags and promptly declared, “We do not believe in forced participation.” I had never head that term before but as soon as she said the words the heavens opened and angels started singing. We were home.

As I texted Jay immediately upon leaving the class, “Gymboree is FREAKING AWESOME!” (except, I didn’t say “freaking”). The place is fun, colorful, laid back, filled with really cool play stations that I haven’t seen a million times before, and just generally wonderful. Dylan was encouraged to explore as much as he wanted and was welcomed into the group when he chose to participate. No judgments were cast when he wanted to kiss his reflection in the mirror instead of throwing beach balls, or when he was climbing a structure during a song. I felt relaxed whereas normally I have to gear up for these kinds of classes and prepare myself for 45 minutes of managing Dylan’s energy and curiosity (which, by the way, I would much rather celebrate!). Dylan was having such a great time that he would periodically stop playing just to fling his arms around my neck with joy.

And now that I have shared this news, I feel compelled to point out the following:

1) I am not getting anything from Gymboree for loving on them publicly.

2) I do see that I am a total dork for caring this much about a kids’ class.

Tonight I need to get out my rulers, paperclips and spreadsheets to sort through all the classes we’ve tried and decide in which ones we are going to invest. My goal is to fill our weekdays with one structured activity per day while leaving them flexible enough to enjoy spontaneous activities and the inevitable boring errands and doctors appointments. I’m going to tire this boy out if it’s the last thing I do.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RUSS August 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Have I ever told you that you are one of my favorite 2 Daughter in-laws? LoL……. Glad you had a good time at Gymboree. I insist you find a non- Gestapo music director though. If he likes music, please encourage it. Love you, Russ


DONNA CUSHING August 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Dylan is so lucky to have you for a mom, Courtney! You do so much to make his days wonder-filled! The Gymboree experience sounds terrific!


ALANA August 13, 2012 at 1:24 am

Gymboree sounds great! Wish we were there! 🙂 miss you!


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