My Shy Little Guy Goes to Gymboree

Two weeks ago we took Jasper to a free preview class at the “Little Gym” (a gymboree type knock off that is twice as expensive and not as much fun.) It was EARLY on a Saturday morning and we got there a few minutes late so the class was already in full swing when we walked in. If you’ve been to these types of classes you know it can be pretty loud and overwhelming – I have to admit my senses were a bit assaulted when we first opened the door.  So I wasn’t TOO surprised that Jasper wanted nothing to do with it at first. But what DID surprise me is that he CLUNG to us and wouldn’t get down for the entire class until the bubbles came out at the very very end.

Determined to find a place where Jasper can run around during the coming winter months I found out that there was a gymboree practically within walking distance from our house that I had no idea was there. We went again last Saturday and I made sure not to be late! It was the Saturday after the Jewish Holiday and there was a generally calmer vibe and Jasper really enjoyed it.

But while he was the most advanced in terms of motor skills he was  by far the shyest kid there! He wanted NOTHING to do with the group activities like rolling on the log, and was REALLY freaked out by the parachute that all the other kids seemed to love.  He proceeded to explore on his own and keep coming back to me every once in a while to hug and give me a kiss and then wander off again.

None of the other children there seemed to exhibit anything close to this type of behavior. One of the moms even commented how sweet it was that he wanted to “be with me.”

But I can’t help wonder how much of this is Jasper’s personality starting to come through (will he by shy like his mommy??) and how much of it is because of the way I parent him? I noticed some of the mom’s let their kids climb the apparatus in ways I wouldn’t dream of letting Jasper without  me holding on somehow and I realized that I am that smothering overprotective mommy that will send him straight to therapy without passing go!

I mean I TRY to keep it in check but I have the keen and morbid ability to see with absolute clarity the potential dangerous outcome of any given situation. I can actually see the image in my head of the varying ways he could lose his footing and hit his face into the steep wooden ladder made of cut outs.  Other moms seem completely unperturbed when faced with the same situation.

How did I get like this? I don’t want Jasper to be afraid of everything and I certainly don’t want to hover and smother him to death, but I also don’t want him to get hurt needlessly.

Isn’t it amazing how being a parent shines a bright light on the parts of yourself that you need to work on?  The child becomes the teacher in so many ways.

How are your babies in group situations? Did they react in ways that surprised you? Have you realized something about yourself that you need to work on since becoming a parent?

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AM says:

@Shane – what a great tip! Thank you! I’ve been losing sleep thinking about that step down. It’s a good foot-and-a-half drop, much more than a regular “step.”

A friend once told me that being a mommy is one long worry trip and she wasn’t kidding!

Sherean says:

@Shane – what a great tip! Thank you! I’ve been losing sleep thinking about that step down. It’s a good foot-and-a-half drop, much more than a regular “step.”

A friend once told me that being a mommy is one long worry trip and she wasn’t kidding!

ariana says:

anne marie, it was literally half the price, LG was $400 and Gymboree is $200. Jeff read this entry and felt bad for the little gym.. the woman that runs ours is super nice, but I was just being honest! Like Amy (peytie’s nanny) told me, Little gym is great for older kids as it can focus more on gymnastics etc and is set up better for that and is a good next step for kids who are too old for gymboree!

anne marie says:

oh.. i want to hug and cuddle jasper.. he will blossom soon enough i’m sure. curious though. how much cheaper is gymboree compared to the little gym. i was floored to see how much little gym was.

Shane says:

@Sherean — we also have a step down into our living room. Our little guy (12 mths old) picked up how to navigate the steps pretty fast. I was shocked actually. Here is what worked for us! As soon as he showed interest in the step and could crawl UP the step, I started putting him in the position to turn around, one leg over, slide down the step. I tried not to just pick him up and take him down. As often as he went up — I tried to mimic the way to get down. And after a few days of this he started to do it on his own. I’ve tried to mimic the same motion when he gets off the sofa or the bed now too. Even though it’s a bigger drop — at least he’s trying it feet first.

Sherean says:

We’re moving in a few weeks and plan to sign Hunter up for Gymboree when we get to our new neighborhood. Up to this point, he hasn’t had any stranger anxiety or issues in unfamiliar settings until . . . the last few days. I think he might be getting to that stage where they get a little clingy in unfamiliar situations. (Perfect timing, right? With movers, new house, etc.) I just read up on this in the Pediatric Association book and — I’m no expert, I just read a chapter — but it sounds like that’s all that’s going on with Jasper. And according to the book, that’s a sign of a healthy attachment to Mommy! Plus, he does fine at day care so it definitely sounds like it’s a phase.

As for letting him fall/bump/bruise . . . . I’m fighting the urge to be overprotective myself. It helps me to watch our friends whose daughter is 12 days older (and MONTHS ahead in motor skills). She’s fearless and they let her roam. I see how she’s thriving and hope I have the same courage they have.

Having said that, I lie awake at night worrying about the step-down from the kitchen to the den at the new house. It’s much deeper than a normal step and I have NO idea how he’ll ever navigate that.

Ariana, you are an amazing mom and you continue to learn and teach us all.

Peytie's Nanny says:

I just wanted to say real quick that I was so right about Gymboree ;-) hehehehehe

I’m glad he was able explore and have a good time, we’re signing Peyt up soon now that we’re back from vacation and I can’t wait!

PS- I didn’t read everyone’s comments so I’m not sure if this was already said, it is not unusual for kiddos to be shy, sure some of it has to do with the way they are parented but some children are also just naturally shy. It’s important for you to comfort Jasper when he’s unsure of an area or people but you should also find a balance in “letting go”, like for example, I had a little girl who was nervous around strangers and would run over and hold onto my legs (you see this all the time I’m sure!) so I would pat her back and say “it’s okay these are our friends” and then let her be while I went back to interacting with whomever was there, I wouldn’t pick her up or try and force her away. I would just acknowledge her feelings and reassure her and eventually she’d feel comfortable enough to go play (usually a few feet from me and then after a while further away).

I personally feel that some parents overreact to their children’s nervousness (or them being “scared”) and end up holding them and soothing them to the point where the child thinks “my parent/caregiver is holding me and giving cuddles and talking to me softly because I was right to be nervous” and then when you try and put them back down it’s 10 times harder than if you left them on the ground and just rubbed their backs or patted their heads and reassured them of safty because now they have the death grip going and will really object to you letting go ;-)

If this was already said then I’m sorry to repeat!

Aker says:

My son Eli was born exactly one week after Jasper. I love reading your posts because Eli and Jasper are so so much alike. Eli, too, is so far advanced with the motor skills but is also quite shy. He is just starting to come out of his shell and sociapize more with adults and other babies. It is fun to watch. But, I have been taking Eli to gymboree for months and he still refuses to sit on the parachute and really has no time for the log. He much prefers to run around and check things out and of course make sure his mommy is not far behind. I always imagined myself with a happy go lucky baby but instead I have been blessed with a sweet, sensitive, and cautious little boy. Eli definitely has a mind of his own and lets us know when he wants to do things and it seems like Jasper has the same personality. Our gymboree instructor told me to go with the flow and let him explore and do things on his own. They change so much and so fast. I think that you are doing everything right…as far as I can tell through your posts, Jasper seems like a great little boy!!!!;

KaiRayne says:

My boys never went to anything like this cause we don’t have one in our small town. But as far as him being “clingy”…. the first time yall went, I could understand him being that way. You said it was noisy and such, plus it was his first time. The second time, he wasn’t really clingy…. most typically developing toddlers will do what he did: go off and play a bit and then come back for a kiss or hug or whatever and then they are off again. And they can do this once, twice or a lot more than that. In my Child Development classes in college I learned that behavior is very normal. Its kind of a reassurance for the child that, “Hey mom is still here, even though I’m way over here.”

My oldest son is in 1st grade and when I fist had him, I was the same way as you are. I didn’t want him to get hurt if it was preventable. My sister told me that I have to let go a little bit cause he’s going to fall and get hurt and that’s how he learns. It was really hard, I’m STILL learning to let him do things that I fight myself to tell him not to do. When he was 18 months old his brother came along and from the time my youngest could move independently, it was apparent that he was ALL boy. He was always getting hurt. He was a climber, so he was always falling off of things before I could get to him. But he’s fine now. Neither on of my boys have broken anything or needed stitches, yet and they’ve had some pretty serious “owies”. Its all just part of being a boy.

Jasper might act differently when you are around in those situations too. I don’t know why kids do that, but my oldest has a really hard time if I go volunteer at his school. Last year his teacher told me that he’s very independent and tries new things and such. When I went to help out in his class, he was with-drawn and introverted and very weepy. So I’ve made it a point not to volunteer IN the class. My other son is fine if I’m in his class, he pretty much ignores me cause he’s having too much fun. lol I know that you can’t just leave Jasper there at the Gymboree, but I guess my point was that maybe he is acting differently than he does at daycare because you are there.

Sorry for being so long winded. lol

heartartz says:

Both of my boys went to Gymboree.
The oldest was ready to try everything and LOVED every minute of it all. My younger one was like Jasper…just sat back with me and was shy. I thought this was odd and wondered what was wrong.
Then his preschool teacher told me.,.”Oh nothing is wrong, he is just an observer…he will only join in the group when he is comfortable and ready”
I have seen this countless times in various situations. He is my little observer.
And yes, he as he got older he did a lot of things on his own…and yes he got a few “bumps and bruises” (and a few stitches along the way.

Sarah says:

I worry constantly too about the SAME things (is what I’m doing TOO much? Not enough? What’s BEST?), but I think the important thing is that you ARE a thinking and AWARE mother who takes notice of Jasper’s behavior and is willing to make changes if necessary. THAT’S what matters in my opinion, because what’s best one day may not be what’s best the next — for you or Jasper. We’re growing/changing as mothers, and although our babies certainly have their personalities, they’re also changing so quickly every day! Every new exposure, new person, new smell, new sound can cause them to act in new ways; combine that with how well or poorly they slept the night before or during naptime, whether their teeth are hurting, etc., and you’ve got a constantly changing dynamic!
Sometimes Finn will smile and wave at strangers when we take walks, and sometimes he’ll get such a severe pouty face that I get embarrassed! I HAVE noticed that Finn gets scared or uncomfortable if we walk into a room filled with people — especially if they all turn at look at him (hard not to do if I say so myself!) — but if the people come in a bit at a time and it isn’t all at once, then he’s fine. Over the summer we took him to a fantastic music class, and he was a bit shy in the beginning, but within a couple of classes he was going out into the middle of the giant circle to get closer to the singing teacher! Other days he’s clingy, though, regardless of the situation. I don’t necessarily know what’s “best,” but I just try to give him what he needs: sometimes it’s me, and sometimes it’s a bit more space!

Erin says:

First time moms or moms who haven’t spent a lot of time with babies are worse. I’ve also noticed that the harder moms had to work to have (or adopt) a baby, the more protective they are. It isn’t to say that other moms don’t care, but… having to really struggle to have that baby tends to make you very appreciative and protective of them. Other moms tend to be a little more laid back and less apprehensive, comparatively speaking.

danielle oxley says:

My son Eli was born exactly one week after Jasper. I love reading your posts because Eli and Jasper are so so much alike. Eli, too, is so far advanced with the motor skills but is also quite shy. He is just starting to come out of his shell and socialize more with adults and other babies. It is fun to watch. But, I have been taking Eli to gymboree for months and he still refuses to sit on the parachute and really has no time for the log. He much prefers to run around and check things out and of course make sure his mommy is not far behind. I always imagined myself with a happy go lucky baby but instead I have been blessed with a sweet, sensitive, and cautious little boy. Eli definitely has a mind of his own and lets us know when he wants to do things and it seems like Jasper has the same personality. Our gymboree instructor told me to go with the flow and let him explore and do things on his own. They change so much and so fast. I think that you are doing everything right…as far as I can tell through your posts, Jasper seems like a great little boy!!!!

Alex says:

I have to agree that Little Gym was not very good at all. But I really like My Gym and Phoenix really seemed to enjoy My Gym much better.

erin says:

Interesting that Marcia brought up the daycare thing, because I was thinking that too. Also, do you/did you ever participate regularly in a mommy & me group? Hannah and I go every week to our mommy & me group. I love it for the support it gives me and also that she gets a chance to interact (however little at this age) with other kiddos. I wonder how much of that will and won’t influence her interactions with other kids when she is big enough to run around with them. And don’t they go through a clingy, separation-anxiety phase at this age anyway?

Another thing to remember is that kids Jasper’s age don’t really have the capacity to play with other kids socially yet. They do a lot of parallel play, but it isn’t until they are about 3-4 that they really get the ability to play with others. Think of his language development for example – you have to be very literal with him probably, because he isn’t old enough to understand the social nuances and cues of language. Social play follows the same developmental path, so I would think his shyness is not necessarily something to be worried about [at the moment].

Of course, all of this comes with the caveat that I only have a 4-month-old, so my older-child-devopment experience is just from books. :)

Marcia says:

I have been taking Savannah to Gymboree since she was about 7 months old and it took her several weeks before she started to get comfortable (even now, when we miss a week it takes a while for her to warm up again). She will just sit there at first and stare at everyone, taking it all in and tends to go to the balls all the time if I let her (I think this is something familiar for her and soothing in a way).

All those kids you see who love the parachute and are climbing all over everything, they have most likely been going to Gymboree for a while so you really can’t compare. It doesn’t mean that Jasper won’t enjoy these things or that he’s shy. Savannah has her days where she has the best time at class and other days she could care less about bubbles and parachutes.

Going to Gymboree has helped me to step back a little and let her figure things out more on her own (man was it difficult to let her go down that slide without holding on tight to her) but they really are capable. Just give him some time and Jasper will love going (he might never care for the parachute but you will see he’s not the only child to just go with the flow).

ariana says:

Megan, I never thought about that that kids of working moms might be more clingy when mom is around! To answer your question, he is the little king of the castle at daycare. He RUNS around there like he owns the place, but part of that is because he’s been there since 12 weeks old, and also because he’s the most mobile and is now one of the “older” kids in the infant room.

It’s funny because he really has no fear, when the infant class (which he’s still in until 18 months) mixes with the toddler class to play in the yard outside Jasper is always running around with the toddlers trying to do play on their toys (and mostly succeeding in just getting in their way!)

That’s why I was a little taken a back by his reaction to gymboree. Also, there were other kids there who had also never been and they weren’t so clingy.

I also think it’s partly just Jasper’s highly opinionated nature.. he’s not one to “go with the flow” as I’m sure you all know by now. So if he even just a LITTLE bit doesn’t like the parachute, he’s going to let you know in a big way!

hayley says:

I think one thing you risk if you are the “overprotective” kind of mom is raising a child who doesn’t think they are capable of doing things on their own. I think it damages a child’s self-esteem and sense of independence if they feel that their parent is smothering them in a way that other parents aren’t.

Megan says:

I think it is fine. Part of it is that you work – so our kids like to get a little extra time with us when we are around. And part is probably your parenting – you do want to let your kids try out new stuff. Doesn’t Jasper go to daycare – is he shy like that there too? I’m sure he’s getting more independent time there than he does with you also. Another thing – not all the kids at Gymboree are first kids probably, and first children tend to be more cautious because their parents are more cautious.

My daughter is only 9 months and just starting to get mobile, but I’m trying to let her figure it out and not to get too involved. She whines a lot for help though and I need to keep myself in check not to always help her so she can learn how to do it on her own!

kari says:

first, jasper is fine.. better than fine, and extremely bright, so i don’t think you have anything to worry about with any of his mad skillz.
also, i think what you are feeling is completely normal. i feel exactly the same way around other moms… i look at their parenting, or if their child is more advanced, outgoing, has other strenghts etc. and wonder … “hmmm, should i be teaching liam THAT, or letting him do THAT” and it goes the other way too… like w/ food for example, i pretty much took the fast track on introducing foods… whereas one of my other friends has a baby older than liam still eating jar food, and looks in horror as liam chomps down on a waffle or something like that.
SO… long winded blah blah… but, i think its all relative. we are all super sensitive about “doing the right thing” for our kids, and what might be right for kid A, might be completely wrong for kid B…. and at the end of the day – we are gonna make mistakes – but our kids are resiliant.

you are doing a fabulous job mommy!!!

oh… and to answer your actual question…liam is a bit of a loose cannon in NEW group situations… sometimes clingy and sometimes independent. however, i think consistency and familiarity plays a huge role in group behavior, if they are familiar with it, it probably shows through in their actions… just wait until jasper gets used to that gymboree class (you too)… i bet his behavior will adjust as he gets used to it.

Alicia says:

I think kids change a lot with each age and stage. I don’t think it means he’s doomed to be shy and introverted forever. Owen went through extroverted and introverted phases every couple months.

What’s funny is I always thought I’d be the hovering, smothering type of mom – but I’m so the opposite. I try to foster a spirit of independence in Owen, and sometimes it means Mommy isn’t always going to be there when he falls so he has learned to pick himself up and brush himself off and not cry about it and be a man! Yah! And, honestly, the kid is SOOOOO accident-prone, he probably falls 100 times a day – but he just pops right back up and keeps charging on.

If Jasper learns that you’ll always be there to coddle him, he’ll begin to start deliberately injuring himself or crying or acting out in other ways to get that coddling attention from you.

I agree with Ava that right now its okay because Jasper is still really young. But this coming year you’re gonna have to let him venture out and explore and discover without projecting your fear onto him. A boys’ childhood is ruff and tumble – that’s how they grow strong and independent and brave (basically, the qualities we want them to possess as men).

ariana says:

Ava, I have a friend who does just that.. for example she said she let her daughter basically fall off the couch so she would learn to climb down correctly. My initial reaction is one of complete horror, but the girl is FINE and she knows how to get off the couch! Jasper, on the other hand, is still basically walking off of any sort of drop off in the mindset that mommy will be there to catch him always. Yikes!

Jenna, Jasper does that too! He gets sooo quiet when overwhelmed.

Just in case anyone wanted a review of little gym vs. gymboree, the little gym was twice as expensive ($400 per semester vs. $200) and not really set up as well for small kids because they don’t have as much small padded apparatus. That’s also why I think it’s better for independent kids like Jasper – in the little gym it was much more about the group circle and spotting stuff but at gymboree there was so much he could just wander off and do on his own. Another GREAT thing about our gymboree is that she said we could basically come to any level 3 class, so he could go up to 3 times a week if we had the time. And that’s not including the two open gym sessions!

Jenna says:

I JUST signed Eli up for our free trial at the Little Gym. We go on Tuesday, so I’ll let you know how he does. He is typically that kid who wants to be the center of attention (much to our dismay), dancing whenever he hears music, approaching other kids to see what they’re up to, etc. But… he’s easily overwhelmed. We went to Lowe’s yesterday, and he sat quietly in his stroller just looking at everything. This is SO uncharacteristic of him! So many people came up to us and talked to him, but he just responded with a blank stare. It was almost embarrassing! It will be interesting to see how he does in his class. Since we live in Charleston, I’m desperate to find an active outlet for Eli that doesn’t involve being in the 98 degree weather with 100% humidity and mosquitos swarming him!

Ava says:

I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong right now — he’s still really little and needs some guidance and demonstration of the right way to do things so that he doesn’t get injured.

With that said, as he gets older, injuries will happen and you NEED you let them happen (as hard as that is) because there’s also a valuable lesson Jasper needs to learn in consequences. Now I’m not saying put him head-down on the slide and then give him a shove, but if you see him heading for a face plant warn him that he could get hurt if he proceeds that way and then let go.

I don’t know what kind of person Jasper will be: one that learns from his mistakes, or one that learns from the others’ advice: it’s something you’ll have to discover together.