Toddlers are hard work. Especially if they're the high-energy, non-sleeping sorts. Living with one almost gives me insight into why so many other parents around me have just given up. I'm not giving up, though. And I'm not patting myself on the back, because I'm sure I'm screwing up this motherhood thing in my own way. Despite that, I take Matthew once a week to a "Music Together" program at Crean Hall, the nursing school behind St. Francis Hospital, and I was shocked and delighted to find that it was free. The program costs upward of $350 in the suburbs. Not only is the class free, but lunch is provided, also for free.
I signed up, largely, because I needed to get out of the house. That sentence seems particularly selfish, because I just wrote another sentence in an email to a friend about the benefits of being an older mom; namely that I've gotten to explore the world a bit, and have had plenty of time to do the things I wanted, so now, I can hunker down and focus on my little boy, without feeling isolated or stircrazy or greedy for alone time. But Matthew can use the interaction, too, and besides, he seems to really like music. Maybe all kids his age like music. I don't know. I have a piano, and can play a little bit, and I encourage Matthew to tinker with it. He does, happily, and with far more agility than I'd expect from a kid his age.
Matthew and I have gone three times to our music class, and the first week we were encouraged to come for lunch. Sitting still is too much to ask of my 20-month-old, in a room packed with a bunch of other moms and toddlers, and within visual range of the motherload of toys, so since that first week, we've eaten lunch at home and then headed to class.
The classroom is always too hot, and I am fat and way older than all the other moms, and I've always had lousy knees, and it's a bitch to get up and down off the floor for some of the songs. Especially when my kid is making a dash for the autoharp. It must be far more fun for Matthew than it is for me, but I don't need the pity party: it's worth it, because even at this young age, Matty is way more popular than I ever was, in any class. When we walk through the door, the other moms — a great group of Latinas, primarily — all cheer, "MATTEO!!" And I beam with pride that my kid has that affect on people. He is pretty terrific.
Most of the kids are under 3. There are some little babies occasionally, but most of the children are older than Matthew. He loves the instruments, and he loves the teacher's CD player. He was really happy today that the teacher let him try her autoharp. Often, though, throughout the hour-long class, Matty gets fussy, and will start hollering because I'm preventing him from pressing the buttons on the TV, or he'll start screaming during the lullaby because he wants to run free, and we're encouraged at that time to rock our babies. I try not to expect too much of him at this age, but he might be more disruptive than any of the other kids in the class, and that embarrasses me a bit. Today, I apologized for his outbursts, and the teacher scolded me; his behavior is normal, she said, especially for such a young boy, who's only been to 3 classes. After all, he did start to get a hang of the activities today, and more importantly, she said, when Matty hollered, he did so, "on pitch." So, there's that.
Matty especially loves when class is over — not so much because he doesn't enjoy class (I think he does, even though he does have some tough moments) — but because he can watch the older kids run up and down the hallway, away from their mothers: he squeals with delight, hoping, perhaps, for the day that he can do that too.