So, yesterday I took Matilda (with baby Daphne in tow) to a toddler class called "Joyful Parenting". The title alone kind of cracks me up. Sort of conjures up the image of happy women in jumpers knitting toddler sweaters with one hand and kneading homemade bread with the other while their precious child practices perfecting their cursive on a writing tablet at their feet. Okay, maybe not, but it did give me an image of some staged happy family circa 1970 or whenever the first time they taught this class. Needless to say, I wasn't sure we were a fit for the class from the get-go.
It is a free class you can register for through the local School of Continuing Education, so technically it's a class I'm signed up for - like, to learn early childhood education and development skills - but really it is like pre-pre-pre-K with parents being totally included. I wan't sure what to expect. I'd heard that this particular teacher (Miss Sonya) could be a bit bossy, so I figured, well, maybe should could find her match in Matilda.
There are about 25 kids in the class, all around the age of 2, give or take 6 months. So, yeah - loud and crazy doesn't quite begin to describe the opening 10 minutes of "free play" allowed at the beginning of class. Whoa. There are different "stations" to play at - the truck station, the doll station, the pretend kitchen station, the train track station, the painting station (yes, real live paint set out to "explore their senses"...and my laundry) and little tables and chairs all set up as if the Munchkin Lollipop Guild were about to hold a convention there. Cute.
Matilda walked in, eyes wide, and let LOOSE. I mean, this girl was like a pinball, darting back and forth between the stations before any other kids were overcoming their shyness just to take a step through the doorway.
CARS! No, what's that? PAINT! PAINT! oh, messy. What's that? DOLLS! Chair? Doll. Kitchen? FOOD! Oh, plastic food. Cars? CARS! Train tracks. PAINT? DOLLS! Mom? Where's mom? PAINT! MESSY!
That's all I can imagine was racing through her mind. She was like a starving chihuahua set free in a butcher shop. I hung back, signing us in and hovering over Daphne in the stroller as Matilda darted to and fro discovering the limitations of the toys. I could see right away that the teacher was a bit nervous about her.
Miss Sonya is a larger woman, with dyed black hair and is a little older than I expected, though I'm certain her choice of occupation has aged her considerably more than time itself ever could. I can tell that at one point this was a compassionate woman with a love for children and learning; but, as I continue to watch her (rolling her eyes, taking long sighs of exhaustion) I'm less convinced of her passion for the "Joy" of parenthood and pretty sure her nerves of steel have worn thinner and thinner through the years of "Matilda's" that she must have encountered.
As Miss Sonya eyes Matilda (oblivious to her) I tense up, wondering how I can suck up to the teacher on Matilda's behalf, and try to greet her and make a good introduction. This woman is intimidating, I'll admit. Her size and stature make me curious how she hasn't frightened more children under her direction, and then I think "well, maybe she has- maybe that's her survival mechanism! Those scornful eyes floating between curtains of thin black hair - eeek!" But, then she smiles, dodges a chair being knocked over while skipping over a little toy car she nearly tripped on and I take a sigh - okay, this lady must know what she's doing. Let's do this.
Twenty minutes in, and in the middle of "circle time", we are the first to get a time out. This is the moment I start to roll my eyes and take deep sighs of frustration, as Miss Sonya glares at me and dictates "You need to take her into the hall." Good grief. Perhaps I'm just more used to Matilda than others. Perhaps I don't have the knack for running a tight ship like Miss Sonya. Or perhaps I just didn't burn my toast that morning and she did. But, of course, I am annoyed at the fact that my child is getting reprimanded for acting her age. Seriously. You hand out instruments, turn on music, and then ask Matilda to SIT DOWN??? Really? Yeah, lady, this is not going to happen.
Not only would Matilda not sit down, but she would not sit still! And who could blame her? She knows a beat when she hears one - girl wanted to dance! Plus, she was hoarding the instruments. But, she wasn't stealing them! She wasn't taking them away from any of the other kids. She was simply retrieving the abandoned instruments neglected by (I'll say it-) boring children and picking them up to test them out as the song continued. None of the other parents even cared a bit. But, Miss Sonya would not have that. Oh no. Sigh. So...out into the hall we went, to "calm down" and "come back when we could behave". Yes, I suppose this time out was as much for me as it was for Matilda. Ah well.
Outdoor time was fun. Trikes and basketball and stealing trucks from the twin boys who couldn't keep up with her (tough luck, Anthony - just kidding, of course I stopped and made her share the truck).
Outdoor time was followed by clean up and snack time - which led to more reprimanding. Again, Matilda wouldn't sit still, wanted to PLAY PLAY PLAY! At one point, Miss Sonya took Matilda by the arm and led her back to her chair while telling me firmly "Don't ask her. Tell her. You tell her to sit and eat her snack." By this time, Matilda was compliant and sitting, so I forced myself to swallow the words that were itching my tongue - "I'll tell you, Miss Sonya, this girl ate almost 2 bananas and a piece of French Toast for breakfast - she doesn't care about a snack! She wants to play with the little play kitchen - and was doing so quietly, I might add, and not disrupting anything! UNHAND my child you behemoth!" Okay, I tend to get a little dramatic inside my head. Nevertheless, Matilda finally sat (for two seconds) and Miss Sonya got distracted by some little girl who threw up at table four (lovely) long enough that we could skate through the next ten minutes unscathed by her glaring eyes.
Finally, another circle time to end the morning. We got in trouble one more time for sitting at the table when we should have been sitting on the floor, but Miss Sonya said "this week and this week only" she would allow it. Well, thanks. I decided to nickname the last circle time session "Vowels and Bowels" since we sang songs about AEIOU followed directly by a nice round of Potty Power. Nothing makes you feel more in touch with your toddler than shouting "Potty Power" at the top of your lungs, let me tell you.
And, finally, the time was over. Miss Sonya handed out little stickers to the youngsters and we waved good-bye. As we left, everyone was telling Matilda good-bye. While I had only grabbed the names of maybe 3 or 4 other kids, nearly everybody seemed to know my little socialite's moniker. You could even hear the other parents barking out warnings as we went - "Look out for Matilda!", "Close the door, here comes Matilda!", "Don't let Matilda out!", etc. We all got a kick out of it, honestly.
Sigh. Ah, my Matilda. My little sparkplug. My whipper snapper. My snarky lil gumdrop. My spunky monkey. She does bring me pride and joy. Though, I still think they should rename the class: Exhaustion 101.