I am so thrilled to be partnering with The Little Gym today to let you know about the incredible role they have played in boosting my shy son’s confidence.
But just before I do, please let me set the stage … And as normal, this might take awhile …
My little Benjamin has been shy since the earliest moments I can recall of his tiny life. He had a rough start, my little peanut, so perhaps this Mama held on a little tighter than I did with my first two.
This shyness was actually quite sweet. My older two are social and friendly and will talk just about anyone’s ear off. But my Benjamin saved all his snuggles and chatter for his family.
I really didn’t forsee it being a problem. Loads of children are shy. I had seen oodles of shy children in my Kindergarten classroom and they all managed to thrive.
It wasn’t until my Sammy started school that I began to question things. With big brother out of the house, it seemed what little socialness Benjamin had went right out of the house with Sam.
We would be grocery shopping and sweet grandmotherly types would glance kindly at Benjamin and he would shrink. Hands over his eyes and truly distressed.
Shyness is one thing, but I felt it essential my little guy be confident.
Then we went to a playgroup without Sammy and I could hardly get Benjamin in the door. He spent that afternoon, and many thereafter, huddled on my lap hiding his face. I didn’t want to force him to play – nor could I have, really – and so we sat.
At this point my anxiety was beginning to rise. Maybe I had really dropped the ball with this poor babe! Maybe I should have been doing more to help him feel confident in being away from me. But since I was home, there was really no need for daycare and with such a fabulous big sister there was no need for a babysitter either.
And then entered all that Mama guilt.
You know the kind … the should of, could of, would of, can’t sleep at night, I have ruined my child sort of unhelpful Mama guilt.
So I cried for awhile, and then put it all behind me.
Truly. I did.
I’ve been a Mom now for 13 years, and the one thing I have learned is that I am always going to have something I feel guilty for … But life is too short for that.
I am doing the very best that I can and I love my children. In my books, that’s all it takes to be a great Mom.
So I moved past that guilt, and moved on to helping my son.
And then I made a phone call that would change everything. I called The Little Gym.
We have been a part of our local The Little Gym for over 10 years. It is an incredible place. I hesitate even saying that it teaches children gymnastics – it does, and incredibly well, but it is so, so, so much more than that. Both Sam and Madeline loved it. I knew that Benjamin would too – once he was confident enough to go in the class.
Because here’s the catch – my Ben would need to go in to the class alone. Mama would watch from a big glass window, but he’d be in on his own. He was of ‘Preschool’ age since he was 3, and that is when the classes change from parent-child to just child.
I talked with Ms. Mari, explained my concerns and my hopes and she seemed incredibly confident that she could help Ben. I was so happy she was confident. Because truly, I was not.
Our first class went exactly as one would expect. He did not enter the gym, he did not look at the teachers, he sat on my lap, hiding his eyes, and clutched on to my shirt for dear life.
Ms. Mari was not at all discouraged. She trusted The Little Gym process, and slowly I began to as well.
Over the next 3 months Benjamin progressed through watching from my lap, watching from beside me in the gym, watching from beside Ms. Mari in the gym, watching from a ‘safety dot’, participating with just Ms. Mari, participating with the other teachers, participating in the small group activities, and finally joining in with the class.
The Little Gym does amazing things for children. The part that most benefits my Ben is the “Citizen Kid” component. This part of the curriculum helps children to be self-confident, as well as helpful and kind. Small tasks like taking small risks, saying your name in front of others, doing a front roll while your friends watch, and asking for help with a tricky activity, all build together to create incredibly confident and well rounded little people.
I have come to learn that Benjamin has a shy personality. But that doesn’t need to stop him from doing anything, standing up for himself, or being incredibly confident.
The Little Gym has classes for children from birth to twelve years. Though in my opinion, the preschool classes are really a must.
In these classes children learn so many skills that will benefit them in school:
Little ones practice waiting in lines (which is a huge learning curve in Kindergarten – phew! The issues that happen while waiting in line are incredible), taking turns, listening and focusing on instructions, taking risks and chances, and standing up for themselves.
One of my biggest concerns for when Ben starts preschool is that other children would take his toys, not give him turns, and things like that. However, with the support of the incredible teacher’s at The Little Gym, Ben has learned how to handle these exact situations.
When waiting in line to have a turn on the bars, the other children were going right in front of Ben again and again. I noticed the teacher watching, giving Ben a chance to stand up for himself. When he didn’t, the teacher helped him to do just that.
The following class saw a similar incident, but this time I saw Ben say something to the child who just took his spot. The child smiled and let Ben go back to his place. In this moment Ben grew about 5 inches taller. And I almost cried.
This Mama is prone to that. The Mama guilt I am done with, but the crying? It’s not going anywhere I don’t believe.
The thing about The Little Gym is that they meet each and every child exactly where they are developmentally and they accept them completely and entirely.
In all my years of being at The Little Gym I have never seen a child who did not love his or her class. Sure, some might take a while to adjust, but once they do they adore it.
The teacher’s adore it too. Every teacher my children have had at The Little Gym has been special. You know those special people that just make you happy to be around them? Those people with the infectious smiles who just love what they do? Those are The Little Gym teachers. Ms. Mari, Mr. Ed, Miss Erin, Mr. Dan, and Mr. Jake have all made a difference in my Benjamin’s life.
Knowing what I did about The Little Gym I should not have been surprised by the transformation in my Ben. And yet, now at the end of his The Little Gym year, I am.
I find myself speechless about his transformation. Shocking, I know. Have a peek at all the words in this online home of mine and ‘speechless’ is certainly not something I typically am!
Of course he is now almost a whole year older, but it is so much more than that. My Benjamin is still a quiet soul, but he is confident. He is nervous in new situations, but he now warms up. He prefers to play on his own, but he happily joins in play when something catches his interest. He loves to be with Mommy (and Mama loves that), but he is happy to be with others now (and Mama loves that too.)
I tell you, this parenting this is certainly not easy. It is essential that we have a tribe or a community to help us through those tough spots.
I am so happy to have The Little Gym as such an important part of my tribe. It is so nice to know that there are knowledgeable, kind, and loving individuals to support my children and help them grow (and pass this Mama tissues when she cries).
If you have a little one who might be interested in trying The Little Gym pop on over to their website to see if you have one in your area. I so hope you do!
Thank you very much for reading friends, I hope you are having a lovely week.