It happened when I was on my way to Gymbaroo. I took my fifteen-month-old son there every week, as well as playgroup twice a week and to play with his cousins once a week. For those of you that don’t know, Gymbaroo is a 45-minute program where about ten babies/toddlers of a similar age stand around looking cute while their parents pretend to themselves that what they are in fact doing is dancing in a circle, singing, and playing constructively with gym equipment and educational toys. I went to all of these events as one would go to a root canal. I knew I had to do it as it was a good thing to do, but it would probably be intensely uncomfortable, boring, and painful, and at the end I would end up at home crying.
Anyway on my way to Gymbaroo I met a neighbour who was lucky enough to have grown up kids and therefore got to sleep all night long and do things like go to the gym and shower. The conversation went something like this:
Neighbour: Morning. Where are you guys off to?
Me: (trying not to yawn) Gymbaroo. Mikie hasn’t slept well but he never does and it’s good for him…
Neighbour: Oh I used to love gymbaroo! I don’t think I went for the kids really, but it was great for me. So much fun.
Other mum: Anyway, have a good time.
I stared in disbelief. The idea that someone might go to these things because they LIKE it??? Was something wrong with me? I found the whole experience exhausting, but no one could accuse me of liking it! Maybe I just wasn’t meant for this? As far as I remembered it mostly involved chasing Michael out of the ball pit to go in for a session. He would tantrum due to said removal from ball pit. Just as he was recovering we would go back in to the ball pit for a break. Repeat. End of session. And yet it seemed the others actually enjoyed doing this. What was I doing wrong?
As I looked around the room during this particular session. I saw a little world that I had never noticed before. I saw babies interacting with their mums. I saw smiles, I saw them trying to clap their hands, stamp their feet, and enjoy a massage from mum. Throughout this Michael was running around the edges of the room and investigating the chairs stacked in the corner. He couldn’t stay still long enough for a massage, and he wouldn’t follow the other kids when they ‘posted’ their name tags into the post box. He didn’t respond when I called his name. He treated the other kids like furniture, pushing them aside if they were in his way and barely noticing them otherwise.
It was at that moment that I realized something that I must have felt for a while, the reason for my hatred of Gymbaroo and the sinking feeling I had every time Michael treated the other kids there (and myself) as mildly irritating furniture.
I knew something was wrong.