Last week I signed up Olive for Gymboree; actually I guess I signed both of us up. Weekends have become my time with Olive, given she's with Daddy full-time during the week. He gets on his new custom cross-bike, helps me tuck Liv into her stroller and sees us on our way. Previous Saturdays I followed her around the house, took her to the park, ran errands, read to her and tried to coax her into taking a nap. I craved more structured time with her, where she could be around other kids, where she could play age appropriate games and stand on things meant for little people.
Liv is on the cusp of two of the Gymboree-defined age cohorts. The group leader suggested we go for the older-kid session, due to her inclination to climb on everything and verbally refuse to do things. As soon as I get her shoes and jacket off she runs to a climbing structure. She attempts to run up the attached slide and succeeds. When the group leader starts to sing, a subtle call to parents to corral our youngsters and engage in a group activity, I attempt to nudge her toward the center of the room, but she'll have none of it.
After a group song, the group leader sets a large, padded cylinder across two brackets and invites the kids to walk across. Liv wants to go first. Then Liv wants to go again. Then Liv wants to go again.
"Let's let Ella go now, Liv," I say, referring to the youngster standing next to us with her dad.
"Zane is going now Sweetie. Let Zane go."
"Will you let William go? Let's let William get on."
Later, Liv spots Ella with two balls and makes her way over to her to relieve her of one. I know I am supposed to apologize to Ella's Dad for Liv's presumption. And he does his part as well.
"Share your ball, Ella," he says.
Liv bumps into a little boy.
"Oh please do excuse us!" I say.
Liv slides down a makeshift slide and then attempts to walk up it when Haley is trying to go down.
"You've had your turn, Liv. Now let the other kids go."
Liv walks up to a girl and half-waves.
"Wave back at Olive," her Mom says.
"Say hello, Liv!" I say.
The group leader lays out a parachute, blows bubbles into the air, and invites all the parents and their toddler to join her there. Liv stands on the center of the parachute, watching the bubbles float over her head and slowly drop to the floor.
"Come join Mama, Liv! C'mon! C'mon! C'mon! C'mon! Cmon!" I start singing the parachute song to the pretend child in my lap. I am the sucker who keeps clapping my hands when the clapping stops and everyone places their hand on their heads. The only other person whose hands are not on her head is Liv.
"Bub-boos … Bub-boos." She says to the air.
The class is already ending. It was built to be short, like a child's attention span. I'm exhausted and watch Liv run across the room to another apparatus. I know it is my job to follow her.
"Come get shoes on, Liv."
She shakes her head no.
Ella and her Dad are about to leave.
"Say goodbye to Olive," Ella's Dad says. Ella weakly waves. Olive stares back,
"Say bye-bye Liv.
OK, wave bye-bye!
Look at Ella!
I tell her there's juice near her shoes; if she follows me to them she can have some. I lied. Before she discovers this is the case I grab her, put her on my lap and put on her shoes.
We both need a nap. Once home the phone rings; it's my husband calling from the top of some peak he just climbed with his new bike.
"How'd she do?" he asks.
I say: "We did fine."