Since my daughter was a tiny 4 month old I have enjoyed taking her to a variety of adult/child classes. Over the years we have listened to stories and made crafts at the library, walked across the balance beam and learned basic ballet positions at The Little Gym, popped bubbles and played with the parachute at Gymboree, clapped to the steady beat and danced at Kindermusik and learned to float independently in the pool at the British Swim School.Lillian has never attended a daycare and won’t start an organized preschool until next school year, so the classes have provided her with an opportunity to socialize with other children while being exposed to a variety of age appropriate skills and topics. Having a class on the calendar has gotten us out of the house on days where we might have stayed in and have given me an opportunity to learn more about child development. During the first year of participating in classes I developed close friendships with some of the other mothers which I previously wrote about here in The Library Girls article.
But this article isn’t a review about the individual classes (although I have enjoyed things about all of them). Instead it’s about the sudden change that took place in each of the classes that turned our world upside down when Lillian turned three! Upon turning three the adult/child classes immediately went away and the children are moved into a class without an adult companion. And the class expectations became more rigorous as well. Where the adult/child classes were all about “free exploration” the preschool classes require more listening skills, more responsibility and more cooperation.
Lillian suffers from separation anxiety so I knew making the transition from having mommy constantly by her side to going into class by herself was going to rock her little world in the worst way. Not to mention causing added stress and anxiety for mommy! So a month or so before she turned three we began to discuss the possibility. We also read books where the main characters go to school without their mommy. Our favorite was “Llama, Llama, Misses Mama.” We stayed after class and observed the “big kids” interacting with the teacher by themselves and acted out what it would look and feel like with her beloved stuffed animals.
The Little Gym class was the first class she tried on her own. She wasn’t looking forward to it but I assured her I wasn’t going to leave her and even sat in the back of the room for the first week. All of the preparation paid off because she did great and was the perfect little listener. In fact, like many children her age, she was more engaged and on task without me being by her side. It became clear that she was developmentally ready for this new milestone, although mommy shed a few tears knowing this transition signaled that her chubby little toddler had turned into a big preschooler! The next week she went in by herself and a month later she said, “You can leave now,” as I walked her into the dance classroom!
Now when we go to classes at The Little Gym, participate in Kindermusik or swim at The British Swim School, a thin piece of glass separates us. I get a few minutes to myself and have the opportunity to engage in adult conversation without interruption while Lillian is gaining self-reliance and is learning to navigate life without mommy. She is thriving in all of her classes and enjoys her new found independence. I am proud of her accomplishments and celebrated when she went into the swimming pool all by herself! This was the most difficult class for her to transition out of and although she hasn’t officially moved to the next class just yet, her swim teacher has been brilliant and so supportive, gradually releasing her to swim class without mommy by adding more independence with each passing lesson and having me step out of the pool for longer periods of time.
As I study Lillian’s every move “on the other side of the glass,” I can’t help but get a bit teary eyed when my mini me turns away from the group, peers out of the glass that divides us and searches for me with her big blue eyes. When she locates me she gets the biggest grin on her face, searching for the reassurance that I am still there and as if to say, “Mommy, I’m a big girl now but I still need you!” I gently smile back, my heart overflowing with joy knowing that my big preschooler continues to need my love and support even if I’m not by her side. After our quiet exchange she happily returns to the classroom activity and I continue to watch her on the other side of the glass.