Ellie and I did an eleven week course “baby time” in the fall.  The winter break was over and the classes were starting again, but she had graduated to the “walkers” group.  I was so excited for this to start.  It was a little earlier in the day which would work better for her potential nap.  The first day of class arrived and I was ready.  Or so I thought.  My excitement quickly turned to panic once we arrived in the parking lot.

When we arrived, the library hadn’t opened yet so there was a group of people waiting outside the door.  The previous class we were in had five kids, maybe six.  Well, I was seeing a lot more than five kids.  And I was seeing parents who had two or three kids.  This is a different caliber of parenting.  If you have two kids you are an official parent.  If you have three?  Dang!  That’s like having a PhD.  Any more than three, you should write a book or have your own reality show on TV.  But I only have one.  ONE!  That barely qualifies me as a parent.  I’m an advanced babysitter at best.

The previous class seemed like all of the moms were first time moms.  Even though I didn’t talk to any of them, I felt this unspoken bond with them.  That we were all on this crazy journey together.  But when we went into that room with all those experienced parents and older children (they weren’t babies, they were children), I felt like I was in fourth grade expecting a lesson on long division, but ending up in a senior level calculus course.  I looked around the room for a sign indicating the class name.  Maybe I had the wrong room, or the wrong class?  Maybe this was the wrong day?  Maybe we should leave, nobody looks familiar.

After I saw one familiar face we ended up staying for the class.  I sat there feeling like it was MY first day of school.  Nervous, freaked out, not wanting to speak, not wanting to be spoken to.  Even Ellie seemed intimidated.  She’s usually the life of the party.  She’s usually dancin’around and flirting with all the other moms.  But she just sat in my lap.  She didn’t even want to stand.  Oh no.  Maybe she’s picking up on my ‘freaking out inside vibe.’  I’m a bad role model.  Quick, I need to start participating more.  But oh no, the teacher’s singing advanced songs about spiders I haven’t learned yet.  And she’s using a giant spider stuffed animal to accompany the song that is making me very uncomfortable.  I was panicking.  The other parents could see it in my eyes.  I could tell.  I just had to make it through until toy time.  I can do this, I thought.

Finally toy time arrived.  Ellie felt confident enough to get up and go for the toys.  But instead of making her rounds to all the other parents, she found one toy and just sat and played.  I know she enjoyed herself because she was smiling and watching.  But I felt bad because she wasn’t her usual happy forward self.  I sat quietly watching her while eyeing the clock.  Can we leave yet?  How long is toy time now?  This is really long.  I looked around the room and saw a bunch of moms that seemed to all know each other and their kid’s names.  I didn’t really want to talk to anybody, but at the same time I kinda did.  I didn’t know what to say without sounding like a weirdo.  I’m not good in new social situations.  I have a mad case of social anxiety.  But Ellie was attracting attention and some moms started talking to me.  Telling me how cute she was and asking questions.  Ahhh!  I wasn’t prepared to talk.  I managed to mutter out some awkward one or two word answers.  I tried to smile so I didn’t seem like a total creeper, but I can’t remember if I did or not.  As I sat there in silence next to another mom I kept thinking, ask a question!  Tell her her kid is cute, too.  No wait.  Don’t do that, that’ll be too creepy.  Right?  Ask how old her kid is, or her name.  Yeah, that’s a good question.  But by the time I had a good plan on what to ask and how to word it, toy time was over.  Thank God!  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.  I was so agitated and flustered I went straight to the bakery and got not one, but two donuts.

I couldn’t tell if Ellie was feeling uncomfortable at all.  I knew I was.  I almost didn’t go back the following.  I thought about taking her back to “baby time” and leave the “walkers” for another day.  But then I thought I was doing it all for the wrong reasons.  I just had to man up and deal with it.  We’vebeen to two more classes since then.  I dread going to each one, but we still go.  Little by little she’s been participating more and I’ve been trying.

The last two classes have gone very well.  With the Snowpocalypse, the class was smaller than usual making Ellie and me more at ease and comfortable.  Pretty quickly Ellie was back to her normal social self.  She was climbing on the laps of other moms and giving hugs.  She was standing in the center of the circle smiling and giggling as she watched the teacher read the story.  And for toy time, she got right in there and played with a bunch of them.  She even passed them out to the other moms and me.  All seemed balanced in the world again.  I was still socially awkward, but at least Ellie was back to herself.  And with each class since, she gets more and more confident.

I think this was one of those cliché parenting moments where you learn a lesson from your kid.  If this isn’t the perfect time to take a lesson from your kid, then I don’t know what is.  As I watched Ellie become more confident and social, I figured I better do the same.  So at the last class I had a friendly conversation with one mom about wet wipes, and I asked another mom how old her kid was.

Baby steps right?

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