I started taking my twins to little classes/activities around town at about six months old. Initially, I would only do it if I could get my husband to come or on the rare occasion that a grandparent was in town. I just didn’t see how I could manage it without an extra set of hands. #twinlife
As the twins got a little older and I got a little braver, we started venturing to classes on our own. It was always a challenge. I normally called ahead to make sure the building was accessible by stroller. I always asked the teacher if the class was set up for a one adult /two children situation. (Classes like swimming obviously require an adult for every child.) I made sure I understood where I could park and what my route into the building would look like. And sure, these outings involved a lot of planning for a simple 30-40 minute music class, but I kind of enjoyed the challenge and being able to conquer it.
My philosophy has always been that if we go out and do something and it sucks, we’ll just leave. Simple as that. We’d been lucky though. Due to careful planning and practice, we never had to leave a class early.
Earlier this summer we signed up for an “outdoor adventure” class which is basically simplified (glorified?) hiking for toddlers. It looked cool and despite the high price tag, I appreciated that it was a 2-hour class which would take up most of our morning. None of the meeting spots were too far away and the class time worked perfectly with our lunch and nap schedule. I was optimistic and excited. With both kids finally walking, it seemed like our world was opening up and we could do so much.
I bet those of you who recently had 18- to 22-month-old toddlers are laughing at me right now. About three minutes into our first session, I learned that being ABLE to walk definitely doesn’t mean they WILL walk. As the youngest two in the group, it was clear that we were going to be the “problem” students. The rest of our hiking boot-clad toddler gang wandered up the small path pointing out leaves, bugs, and sticks; my kids just clung to my legs demanding to be picked up (a class no-no) and alternating bouts of scream crying. I vowed to persist and that this was just first day jitters. Through much coaxing and snack bribing, we made it to the top of the (teeny tiny) hill just in time to join the other for a snack in the grass.
While the first day wasn’t great and I was utterly exhausted, we still had 9 more weeks of this ahead. I was determined to help the twins adjust to this new activity and to the idea of following instructions with a group. I was lucky enough to attend the second session with my husband in tow. Yay, extra hands! Instead, because there were now two available parents who could adeptly carry each toddler, crying ensued immediately. We spent 80% of this session in a corner by ourselves trying to calm the twins and get them interested in anything other than being held.
By the third session, I was feeling pretty defeated. The location was trickier to get to and you couldn’t park nearby. I had to drag out the stroller (another class no-no) which was just confusing for everyone. There was no walking. There was lots of crying. There were momentary pauses for snack eating.
But, man, was I determined. At the fourth session, I wrongly assumed we’d be getting the hang of it. Same amount of crying. Same lack of walking. In fact, it got so out of hand that we left then class a whole hour early. We left! I carried two screaming 25-pound toddlers all the way back to our car and just bolted.
And never went back.
It’s clear the twins weren’t developmentally ready for this kind of class (despite being within the age requirements). I lost $300 because there are no refunds. I feel bad for quitting and bad for wasting that money. I feel bad for dragging the twins to an activity they really weren’t ready for. But mostly, I feel bad for feeling bad. My philosophy all along is that we could try stuff and we would leave if it was a disaster. I got cocky and thought after so many positive experiences, we could handle it.
So let this be your reminder! Go out for dinner with the kids and get the check after you order so you can leave if you need to. Go to the silly music class and bolt if your kid has a blowout and you’re too embarrassed to go back. Sign up for the art class but give yourself permission to quit if your kid truly hates painting. I love that we can give our kids these experiences, but I also love that we can leave. As adults, we’re forced to finish, complete, attend so many things. Up to a point, I think it’s ok to quit.