I had waited for years–literally years, even if it was only 3 of them–to sign a child of my own up for an extracurricular. We have a lovely, well-developed community center here with dozen of programs, including several for preschoolers, and we get their catalog every quarter. Class offerings are inexpensive and entice with little write-ups of all the things your kid can learn to DO.
I took dance classes and gymnastics in my youth, so I was especially interested in those. My husband was somewhat skeptical, however, given that our oldest–my first target–is a boy.
I pointed out J has always lagged a little behind the average child with his gross motor skills. It’s been nothing that really worried me or his primary care provider, and even though OC was a suggestion, we decided to see how well we could do without it–and J’s continued to grow and master skills, develop strength and balance, etc. But after J turned 3, I noticed that he still often stood with his feet turned far out, and his ankles rolled markedly inward.
So I had the doctor take a close look, and it turns out his hip joints are rotated further out than the average kid. He was just born that way.
This is apparently not too uncommon and doesn’t need special treatment in our case. The doctor did recommend encouraging J to strengthen his leg muscles as much as possible. He said our son likely wouldn’t be a star sports player, which was disheartening to hear, as J has the typical early interest in all ball sports, but I took that with a grain of salt. Grit and enough interest can overcome most of the challenges we encounter, I figure. Especially if you add plenty of opportunities to shore up the weaknesses we know we have from early on.
Because I took dance and gymnastics, I’m well acquainted with the extensive skills in coordination and strength that they can develop. And dance is actually something football players will use to enhance their footwork on the field–did you know that? Here’s a Baltimore Raven’s player practicing Irish Step–something I took lessons in for a few years and LOVED:
So I kept toying with the idea of taking James to dance class and brought it up with my husband a few more times. He wasn’t really opposed once he thought about it; more just surprised and uncertain when I first broached the topic. Then I took a weekend trip and had some great, long conversations with a friend whose oldest is 6–and a boy. Near the end of my visit, it just came up that he used to take ballet and LOVED it. He’s disappointed not to be able to any more because they moved to a more suburban setting, and no dance school nearby will take boys (!!).
Just to completely head off any stereotyping–this really isn’t a question of our kids’ gender identification/sexuality. It’s literally about one thing: allowing them to enjoy a healthy, gender-neutral activity that nurtures their physical development far more effectively than most others.
So that settled it for me. I came home, told my husband there was a “mommy and me” class about to start, and that I wanted to sign J up. Hubby was all for it! And J was terrifically excited.
He was shy and uncertain for two whole minutes at the first class–and then fully engaged and delighted for the other 43 minutes. He was even the most verbally expressive and thankful out of the bunch (which, I will add, included one other boy as well)! “I love this dance class!” popped out pretty quickly and endeared him to the teacher and all the other moms instantly.
So what do we do at dance class? I hope you’re not thinking tutus and ballet slippers; you’ll be pretty disappointed.
J wears his sweatpants and sneakers. We pretend to make pizzas while we do stretches, and then we see how well we can jump from one dot on the floor to another. We make fireworks with colored scarves. We squash invisible bugs in front and behind us. We march like soldiers from one side of the room to the other. We try to leap across the room–which mostly just looks like running and jumping. And we play with the giant parachute.
Yup. Really gender-centric activities.
Or maybe just a bunch of preschool kids learning how to move their bodies while trying not to run into each other. 🙂
And, hopefully, in J’s case, it’s helping him develop that leg strength and turn those feet straight when they’re not so inclined that way… and maybe nudging a door open for a future in football.
Except really probably not, cause J has always been short for his age and hubby and I think football is super dangerous. But that’s another discussion.
There’s always European football. 😉