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It can be frustrating when your child is the one in the class that’s different to all the others. That’s often been my experience with Tilly. The others sings and dances, while she wants out. It’s something I’m learning to understand and nurture and who knows, perhaps she’s actually has got more sense than everyone else anyway.

When I first began looking after Tilly full time I dived into the local play group and toddler classes scene. I didn’t have much choice if I wanted to fill our days as back then I no car to rely on so was pretty much reliant on what was happening in our small town.

As a dad I took on what can feel like a fairly mum-orientated set of activity groups and got stuck in for the good of Tilly. It’s fair to say that dancing around to nursery rhymes and doing pantomime-like interactions are not activities that come terribly naturally to me. However I wanted Tilly to enjoy it and feel at ease so I put aside by inhibitions as best I could and joined in. Dads and grandads would periodically come along to some of the sessions but they’d seldom return nor did they normally join in. I think for many it was simply too far out of their comfort zone.

Looking back, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with those classes. They do keep children entertained for 45 mins or so but it did feel strike me as money for old rope to some extent. Jump and clap, make up some random story, play some music. It keeps toddlers entertained alright and they charge good money for it.

Tilly began to find elements of these classes increasingly annoying, whether it was a bun fight for the soft toys that are distributed, the boys that inevitably challenge her own feisty personality resulting in pushing and shoving or the parachute at the end which for some reason she absolutely hated. Come the summer when Tilly was around two and half we gradually started to leave some of the classes for calmer, out of doors activities. By then we had a car at our disposal and being in a green area of the country plenty of nature-based locations to call on, which just seemed to suit us better.

Preschool began the following winter and the classes were gradually forgotten. However as we started the new academic year with school on the horizon, I started thinking that perhaps I should encourage Tilly to take up some extra activities outside of preschool. She loves music, acting out roles in play, is great at sport and enthusiastic about gymnastics. I saw a couple of classes – one featured drama with dance, the other music based, and I arranged taster sessions.

The result was interesting. Tilly got stuck in with the drama class but absolutely hated the music class and howled throughout it. Too loud, too crowded and unfamiliar, it was like a red rag to her highly sensitive personality and it overwhelmed her. I did my best to grin and bear it and encourage her as best as I could to join in but honest I could see where she was coming from.

“Why did you take me to that, daddy?” Tilly later asked me, sounding more than a little resentful that I’d subjected her to it. Although every other child there was enjoying it, the format of these things just doesn’t suit her, and I respect that. I was also sensitive as a child and although I exhibited it in quite different ways I can fully appreciate how she feels. Tilly was similarly resolute about the drama class. Although she appeared to enjoy it she made it clear she had zero interest in going back. Ever.

Fortunately Tilly does attend an excellent preschool that offers music and multi-sport activities as part of its weekly programme, so I can at least feel that she’s receiving a broad range of experiences in trying these out. Best of all, she loves the activities at preschool.

I certainly haven’t given up on taking some of her interests forward through clubs or classes but I can see it’s going to take a little work to try things out to find a format she’ll take to. I’m absolutely not going to force her to any classes she doesn’t want to attend at the moment, though. It may be she’ll find it easier once she’s older and been at school. By that point the sort of classes available may have matured in format to suit her better too.

As for now, if Tilly has decided to retire music classes to history and stick to jiving with daddy around the kitchen, well that’s just fine by me.

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