March 15, 2012

tiny tumbler

This winter, Lady M took a little gymnastics class at our local community centre. My husband and I thought it was something she would enjoy, and we were definitely right. However, it came with a little bit of apprehension on our part. You see, it was the first time that she would be taking a class without one of us, everything to this point had been a 'parent & tot' set-up, but this time the rule was clear: 'no parents allowed'. Though she goes off to preschool on her own, and we know she's completely ok on her own there, its still difficult to see signs of your little baby growing up.

However, as soon as she familiarized herself with the trampoline and balance beam, she was enamoured. The smile on her face put us at ease, and we knew she was just fine.

At weeks five and nine of the class, parents were invited to sit in and watch. Week five quickly rolled around, and we were excited to see our little girl in action. However, like many other children in class, she was all over the place, struggling to listen to the teachers, more interested in the fact that their parents and siblings were in the gym. On top of that, my parents had been by earlier in the day and had brought her a pair of light up shoes. She was more interested in making her shoes light up than paying attention to her class! It was pretty entertaining, and we certainly spent a lot of the 45-minute class laughing.

By week nine - the final week - our little Lady M was once again very excited to have us in the room, and literally just wanted to run laps around the gym, rather than fall into line with the other kids. I felt a bit embarrassed by the fact that my child was the one being reckless, and not listening, but it helped us come to a realization. Knowing she has no issue sitting still and focusing at home or at school, it was  apparent that she needed a more active extracurricular activity - not one where the kids had to spend much of the time sitting, waiting to take their turn on the equipment. After a quick discussion, her summer plans were clear: swimming and soccer.

Swimming, as far as I'm concerned, is essential. At three, she is now old enough to take lessons on her own, so will be starting that class rather soon. We also wanted something that would allow her to run and run and run some more, so soccer seemed to be the obvious choice for the summer, and there's a league in our city that starts kids at three, so there we have it. She can run up and down the field all she wants, and I think she'll have a great time doing it.

Maybe we have a future soccer star on our hands. Maybe she'll want to return to gymnastics. Maybe she's on her way to working every summer as a lifeguard, or being an Olympic swimmer. Whatever it may be, as long as she's having fun, she'll be doing the right thing.

birth order

Have you ever considered where you fall in line with your siblings, and how that affects every aspect of your life? The role of the middle child seems to be the sibling status most frequently studied, often considered the most difficult sibling place to occupy. In my house, everything comes in two' middle children here.

I have an older brother, three years my senior, making me the youngest child. My husband is one of two, his brother is 5 years younger, so clearly, he's an eldest child. Now, continuing the tradition of siblings coming in two's, we have our two little ladies as part of our family, Lady M is the oldest by 2 1/2 years...Lady A the little sister.

Last semester I took a class called "Socially & Culturally Situated Learning", and as part of writing our educational biographies we talked a fair bit about birth order and how that has affected where we are today, professionally and personally. I have always enjoyed being a little sister, and being one of two siblings. From time to time the thought of having several more siblings crossed my mind as being desirable, but I've always been happy having just the two of us. My brother on the other hand has likely given more consideration to having only child status more times that I know.

Now that we have the lives of two children to manage, I'm amazed by the frequency with which I think about birth order. I'm also amazed at how my second child status affects my parenting, quite unintentionally. As soon as Lady M tries to stop Lady A from doing something - not wanting to share with her, trying to gently push her out of the way, whatever it may be - I come quickly to the little one's defense. Whether that is simply because she's smaller, more needy, or because I connect to being the youngest, I really don't know. However, on the flip side, my husband, forever bonded to his older child status, can understand the plight of big sister Lady M in a way I can't. Don't get me wrong, our munchkins are treated as equally as possible, but there is an obvious connection to our corresponding sibling statuses.

Frank Sulloway, a researcher who studies birth order says "the personalities of siblings vary because they adopt different strategies in the universal quest for parental favor". Apparently those strategies are also used when it comes to parenting, whether intentionally or not!