November 4, 2016
By Ekta R. Garg
Heaven help me, I think I’m slowly morphing back into one of those people. You know, the ones who don’t have children.
Earlier in the week I went to the YMCA to attend an exercise class. It’s not a heavy-duty cardio class. It’s Ballet Body and is taught by a former dancer so there’s a lot of emphasis on core strength, leg strength, and good posture. The music is also quiet, little bits of classical music that the instructor has put together as her playlist.
Not your typical exercise class, but I’m trying to focus on toning. In addition to traditional ballet moves, we also do a section on core strength while lying on mats on the floor. So it’s a good way to combine hardcore ballet with other exercises.
Also, I find it somewhat soothing in the middle of the week and the middle of the morning to listen to classical music as I do these moves slowly and with intention. I’m starting to understand more why ballet dancers and professional ballerinas hold themselves the way they do.
When I walked into ballet on Wednesday, I did the warmups with the other students. We followed the instructor through slow, careful extensions of our arms and legs. Then a few minutes after class started, another student—a new mom—came in, pushing a stroller ahead of her. She parked the stroller at one end of the room, grabbed a chair (which we all use in lieu of a barre,) and began doing the warmups with us.
As I went through the forms with the instructor, I peeked at the baby asleep in the stroller. She was cute with chubby cheeks and a full head of dark hair. I guessed she was probably about four or five months old. The anxious mother kept glancing her child, and I wondered whether she’s a first-time mom. As much as she wanted to stay engaged with the class, something was up.
First-mom jitters? I thought. Then in the middle of a series of tendus and degages, the woman scurried to the back of the room where clean mats sat in rolled logs and grabbed one. It wasn’t time for the mat section yet, but as the mother rolled the mat out in front of her and took another glance at the stroller I knew part of what fueled her anxiety.
The kid was going to wake up from her nap soon.
Within minutes the baby opened her eyes, and her little lower lip curled into the beginning of a cry. The mother started cooing to her from a few feet away and glanced back at the instructor. The instructor, a sweet Chinese woman, didn’t say anything to her.
And mild annoyance began rumbling around inside of me.
The Y has a childcare room. Why couldn’t the mother have left the baby there? Signs around the Y request that parents leave any children not using YMCA facilities in the childcare room, as much for the safety of the children as for those who have come to work out. Also, kids can distract people while they’re trying to exercise.
As this baby was distracting me now.
The mom side of me raised a protest. Maybe this woman didn’t have the funds to pay for the childcare room. Maybe she was, in fact, a first-time mom and anxious about letting anyone else take care of her baby. Maybe she had made a Herculean effort to get herself and the baby up and dressed and out of the house so she could start taking care of her body again, all the while battling feeding and nap schedules and her own insecurities about herself.
I remember all those feelings. It wasn’t, my mom side reminded me, that long ago that I stood (or tried to battement, in the case of our class) in this woman’s position. In some ways, sometimes I’m still there.
The baby woke up from her nap, and after failed attempts at comforting her with just words and sounds the mother took her out of the stroller. She laid her down on the mat with a changing pad beneath the baby for extra comfort and dropped a couple of toys next to her. The baby wasn’t quite at that rolling over stage yet, although she attempted the position once or twice. When the baby began to fuss even more, the mother picked her up and held her on her hip while she went through the exercises with us. At one point she even plopped down on the mat herself and with a great deal of discretion began breastfeeding the baby.
And annoyance rippled along one edge of my brain.
Am I terrible person? A terrible mother? When Ten and Eight were a toddler and baby, respectively, I used to see other parents with toddlers and babies and exchange looks of solidarity with them. That half smile that said, “Yup, I’m going through it too.” My heart used to hurt for the parents on the plane who couldn’t get their children to quiet down.
Once I was one of those parents on the plane when Eight (at that time almost two years old) engaged in an epic meltdown that crossed state lines and moved from one airport to another.
I still feel that solidarity. I still hurt for new moms whose babies just can’t settle no matter what they try. But lately I’ve started to notice that annoyance.
I ask myself why the parents with young kids can’t get them to settle down. This question rings much more loudly when I see children misbehaving and parents sort of ignoring it or trying to talk the kids out of bad behavior (I am not joking on that one. It blows me away how many times young mothers stop in the middle of a store and lecture a child using words and concepts that the kids are clearly too young to understand.) I question the methods other parents use. Occasionally I judge them.
Have I begun turning into one of those people who live life B.C.? Before Children? Or as our children transition from one stage to another, do parents transition too?
I don’t know. But I’ve begun noticing it within myself. What does that say about me?