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A mother steps back from the pull of over-parenting

After two years of 'mommy and me' classes with a reluctant toddler, a mother abandons the over-scheduled approach.

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Like many Gen-Xers, I remember childhood as an uncomplicated time when the only thing you had to worry about was being home by dark. Somehow, that all changed when we took the reins of parenthood. Today we read about "overparenting" and wonder are we simply hands-on parents, or helicopters?

It's easy to get sucked into the obsessive-parent vortex, but in at least one area of my parenting life, I've loosened up by following my son's lead.

Three years old and often described as a "bundle of energy," Kian's never been one to be hemmed in. He's the kid you'll find skipping the snack break at a play date for a chance to tinker with the LEGOS, or the one who must be physically extricated from the parking lot, where he's been fixated on a squashed leaf resembling a rocket ship.

Like our Colonial forebears, my son lives the mantra "Don't tread on me," and that's what's convinced me to stop hovering and loosen the reins. How? By giving up Mommy and Me classes.

It's hardly as trivial as it may sound.

I couldn't wait to sign up for our first class, Baby Yoga, when Kian was 5 months old. But then we joined a tumbling class that was rather chaotic. It was followed by a music class that made him cry. Next, we tried a Spanish class, but keeping Kian tethered to my lap was torture. Then came an art class in which I chased my son around like a human zamboni under the instructor's glare. Finally, we tried Toddler Gymnastics. The coach expressed a zero tolerance policy for kids straying from the group, and I spent every class dragging Kian back to the circle. I was exhausted. We quit after Week 4, putting an end to two years of early childhood "enrichment" activities.

Cutting back was hard for me. I've always been a joiner. As a child, I participated in a large number of extracurricular activities, which resulted in my burning out from most of them. My mother had stressed that quitting was never an option, so I had trudged off to my Brownie meetings and dance lessons, telling myself I was a better person for it.

Looking back on the classes my son and I had shirked over the span of two years, my Type A personality trembled with despair over my failure to live up to my mother's standards, both in my lack of follow-through and in the money wasted in missed classes.


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