Toddler Issues

Misbehaving Dancers

You know, all parents make decisions that they feel are right for their children.

We decided a few years ago to hire a nanny, rather than send our twins to a home daycare. Our main reason was our sanity. It seems much easier to wake up the kids in their PJs and bring them down the stairs a few minutes before our nanny,  J, shows up – rather than to wake them up a whole lot earlier, get them dressed, get them in the car, drive them to a place. We wanted someone who would play and teach our kids in our own home, someone who could throw a ball for our dogs in the backyard once in a while.

And still to this day, we believe we made the right decision. Our nanny is totally awesome and has done all the things we hoped for and much, much more. We hope we can keep her in our lives for a few more years, for sure.

But with the decision to keep the twins home came a downside that we hadn’t considered (and even if we had, I’m not sure it would’ve changed our minds) – social anxiety.

I can’t say that the twins don’t know how to be social. They’re extremely social – with each other. They know how to share: one of them shares with ease, to make the other twin happy, and the other twin hates sharing, but knows very well how to do it. They know how to push each other’s buttons, which lately has led to pushing and shoving and arguing over who is in who’s space. “That’s MY side!” “No, it’s MY side!” They know how to carry on full, strange, silly conversations.

Just today, in the car – C: “B, look! Look! A police car!” B: “Where? I don’t see it.” C: “It’s right THERE! You’re looking out the wrong window. Look out THIS window!” B: My window? I am looking out my window!” C: “No, THIS one. Hurry up, you’re going to miss it! Look, look, LOOK!” B: “Ohhhhh. There it is!”

So I guess I was taken aback when my twins started their dance classes – C in ballet, B in gymnastics. It’s just the strangest thing – they’re not listening. They’re not following directions. They’re not doing what the teachers are asking of them.  They’ve spent 3 years learning to listen, to follow directions, to be respectful. So what’s with this?

For C, I know it stems from being uncomfortable in a new surrounding. The first few classes, she wouldn’t even go out onto the floor. Now, a month in, she’s still – not listening. The teacher asks her to stand up, she doesn’t. The teacher asks her to point her toes and she runs to me and says, “I can’t do that.” I remind C that she needs to try, to at least follow the directions, and she tells me that she plans on running over to me every few minutes. With a half hour worth of ballet, she participates in about half of it. The other half she’s just sitting there. She knows what’s going on, she’s not lost in space. She’s taking it all in. But she’s not DOING anything. There are 10 girls there, and she’s the only one picking and choosing what she wants to try and do. Not following directions is the weirdest part. She’s a total rule-follower! When I ask her later why she didn’t ______ when the teacher asked her to, she says, “I didn’t want to.” Is this my child? It truly looks like misbehavior. It looks like she’s not listening. But I’m assuming (and almost hoping?) that it’s social anxiety.

For B, he seems perfectly comfortable. However, I think he’s super distracted. It’s a very small room – half for the kids and half filled with parents sitting in chairs. Parents who are talking the entire time. On top of the chatter of conversation, there’s music playing. Loudly. There are 9 little kids attempting gymnastics. There are fans on the ceiling. Multiple fans. I mean, really. Between the fans and the music and the giant mirrors and the parental conversations, I don’t think B can concentrate. He’s happy enough. But the teacher has to call his name 598 times, and typically even go and grab him by the arm to bring him to where he needs to be. He’s  – not listening. I get that he’s not exactly in his comfort zone either, though it’s not like my house is quiet! Social anxiety?

Every week, twice a week, I sit in a quiet fit of embarrassment and horror. I’m not looking for my twins to be dance stars, I assure you. I am looking for them to use their manners – the ones we emphasize at home.  Neither of my children follow the directions. Neither of them participate in the whole half hour. Neither of them speak a word. Both of them love it. Both of them give me huge grins and big waves across the room, no doubt with the goal of both melting my heart and making me feel guilty for dragging them to a situation that is completely out of their comfort zones. Both of them remind me that I’ve got two kids who don’t seem to know how to do all those things they do perfectly at home when the directions are given by an adult they don’t really know. They’re 3. In a room full of ballerinas and gymnasts who all seem outgoing, who listen, who participate – either I have myself two little chess players and book readers (one can only hope!) – or they’re uncomfortable 3 year olds.

I’m hoping this gets better with time and encouragement. I know it’s good for them. The question becomes, however – how on Earth are they going to participate in a recital??


One thought on “Misbehaving Dancers

  1. This is what worries me about my twins not being in a daycare/preschool/MDO whatever. I worry that staying home with me all day and not really playing with other kids except for the rare play date means that they’ll be shy or not know how to make friends. They have the rest of their lives to figure it out so why am I worried?

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