Light life moments: The Balance Beam

It is Saturday morning and Olivia is crossing over a balance beam, one beam to the other. This is our second round of Bounce Buddies class, and I have to say, she is quickly becoming a pro (no bias). Her little toes reach forward feeling for the next step. Finding her footing, pushing forward. We woke up early this morning. She woke up quiet as a mouse. I, to the tap-tap of a little hand on my shoulder in the total darkness. After the microsecond that it takes me to remember the series of events that led me to this moment (I had a baby--she is two now--she sleeps in the room next to mine--we changed her crib to a toddler bed--she can escape from it--she escaped!), I roll over and say "good morning, honey."

Because Jake wasn't feeling well, I generously* offered to take Olivia to class by myself.  So here we are, just the two of us left to figure this out.

*Generously -slash- begrudgingly.

There are four balance beams in this particular circuit. A low one, a high one, a low one with toy snakes on it, and a medium/high wide one on which the kids will do a somersault (with help). Olivia runs for the high one when we are released to find a place to start. Awesome.

I hoist her up happily and she takes off, holding on to my fingers in a death grip. She drags me along and I barely make it to the end in time for her big "Ta Da!" off the end of the beam. She leaps to the mat, and I have another millisecond-long dialogue in my head.  "Do I catch her? Do I let her crash? She can't stick this landing, I think we learn that in the third round." And then she jumps and I just keep my hands on her. Just tight enough to soften her landing, but she does crash.  And she's fine.

On to the short beam we go. Here she is supposed to balance a bean bag on her head while walking. She drops it constantly.

"Oh darn," she says, "Oh darnit I dropped it again!"

I can't help but smile. "You can do it, honey. Just stare straight ahead. That's it, straight ahead."

In my never-ending effort to be a perfect parent, I recently picked up the book, Bringing Up Bebe. It chronicles the adventures of an American first-time mom living in Paris, and all the French parenting tips she picks up along the way. The fascinating thing is how well the French parenting style seems to work: kids don't throw food and parent's don't yell at them constantly, kids play independently for entire afternoons and they sleep through the night (often starting at 2 months old!), they are allowed to explore freely within reason and they never get fat. No one does. It's France.

I like the advice in this book, but not all of it.  And I'm not ready to jump into the French way of doing ... well, anything just yet. (These are same the people that invented the coffee-and-a-cigarette breakfast, you know?) But I am paying closer attention. I am examining things.

As she moves up to the medium-high beam, I watch carefully. I think she can do this one without me. The teacher takes her hand and I slip into the background. She is listening to the directions. She is bending forward. "Forehead to knees!"  Aaaaand, flip over there you go!

I am unsure now. I reach for her hand, I pull it back. I watch her go down the foam steps and ascend the final beam. The snake-covered one. She steps up. Instead of tip-toeing over, this little Indiana Jones steps directly onto the face of the first snake.  Yeah girl! She does it again. And again. Hmmm...

"Try this, honey." And I step up up up dramatically modeling the way it's done.  (You know, the way professional gymnasts step over snakes.) I feel silly, but she gets it right away. Was that wise to show her how to do it? Should I have let her explore her own way more? Am I stifling her creativity and sense of discovery?!?

These are important questions and they pester me constantly. But this is Saturday morning. And it's Bounce Buddies class. We will sort out perfect parenting another day. It's time for the high beam again...

Ta da!
Ta da!