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Mommy's Little Jumping Bean

God bless Texas.

I forgot when we moved back here that we were returning to the land
of competitive gymnastics; our area’s fostered several
Olympic gymnasts over the past decade or so, and there are four
huge training facilities within perhaps five miles of us.

What does this have to do with me and a bored two-year-old? I have
two words for you –

Open. Gym.

A dad I met on the playground a couple
weeks ago told me about Open Gym; it’s the time of day when
nothing else is going on in the facility and the owners pay rent by
charging preschoolers five bucks to crawl all over the equipment.
Apparently all gyms do it and it’s very popular, but the dad
was one of the UberDads who was pushing his two-year-old son to
“Move it! Move it! Faster, you can go faster!” up the
ladder, so I tucked it into the back of my brain and forgot about
it, not wanting to pay cash for a competitive environment.

Forgot about it, that is, until I realized I needed to work harder
to make some friends for my kid. So I’ve tested out
playgroups (more on that later) and chatted with strangers in the
grocery store, and when I saw my kiddo drooping listlessly around
the house, I Googled the gyms in the area.

I picked the site nearest us and marked their weekly open gym time
on my calendar, and when the date arrived I sprung it on Maddie
over breakfast.

“Hey, baby girl, want to go to a new place?”

“What kind of place?” she asked cautiously, picking
through her yogurt and granola.

“It’s like an indoor playground, with lots of fun
things to do.”

“Like what?” Tough sell, I guess.

“Um, climbing, and swinging, and running, and jumping,

“Jumping? Can we go now?”

We raced through breakfast and got dressed in “gym
clothes” – a snappy crotch and leggings, with a
ponytail to make sure the hair didn’t get in the way of the
jumping. Apparently Elmo’s been thinking a lot about exercise
recently, because the whole time she was getting ready she was
saying, “I need to get some exercise. Elmo exercises every
day. He says it’s very good for you. I need lots and lots of
exercise to get bigger and bigger and bigger!”

When we walked into the gym I was bowled over by all the things
there were to do: there was a bounce house all blown up with a
slide on it, several foam pits to play in, a trapeze to swing on,
all the balance beams laid out, a rope swing – and TWO
trampolines. Maddie was a bit overwhelmed and nervous, clinging to
my hand as we walked around, and eventually she said, “I want
to just watch for a bit.” So we sat in the middle of the
tumbling area, watching all the small circuses going on around us.
Babies were playing on rocking toys and climbing over vinyl wedges,
while the preschoolers were swinging back and forth on the trapeze.
Eventually Maddie worked up her courage and we went to the

You should have seen Maddie when she got on that thing: she’s
got her small one at home, and she’s been on her Aunt
Lisa’s trampoline at her house, but there’s never been
such delight on that little face as when she started bouncing on
that industrial-strength trampoline, and I wish dearly I’d
taken my camera. At first she could only bounce a few times before
falling on her knees, unused to jumping without having a bar to
hold onto. But she quickly caught on and was soon flying high,
ponytail waving triumphantly in the air behind her.

The two trampolines were immensely popular, of course, and with a
one-at-a-time limit there was always a line, so Maddie would jump
for five minutes before I’d prod her off to share. But she
never complained, simply walked silently to the back of the line
and waited contentedly. A few times we ventured further afield,
taking one swing on the trapeze and a few running passes down the
tumbling lane, but by and large she spent a solid hour on that

And all I could think as I watched was, This is going to be a
freakin’ awesome nap this afternoon.

When they finally chased us out and we were on our way home,
Maddie’s legs looked a little shaky but she couldn’t
stop talking about how much fun it was. For the rest of the day she
begged me for another shot at the trampoline, and I explained as
best I could that we couldn’t go back until next week. Since
then, Maddie still brings it up about once an hour, but has been
practicing on her own trampoline while she waits for next week to
get here.

And in case you’re wondering, that awesome nap never
materialized. On fire from the gym, Maddie came home and kicked the
ball in the back yard for half an hour, had lunch, walked to the
playground and ran around for a half hour, came home, tried for
five minutes to nap and declared herself “Awake! And ready to
play in the back yard!” She was physically on fire all day,
running and throwing the ball and jumping, finishing off the day by
putting on her ballerina dress and dancing to ballet music for an
hour before bed time.

Have we created a monster? It’s too soon to tell. But
Maddie’s already made noise about a birthday party at the
gym, and her birthday’s not until June. So you be the judge.
We’ll probably make it a regular thing while Cora stays with
Gamma (because the thought of my daredevil, fearless,
walking-at-nine-months baby crawling all over that apparatus makes
my blood run cold) for a few more months. For now, I’m happy
to have a bit of routine to Maddie’s week knowing that for
five bucks I get two hours of sheer kid play in a safe environment.

And there’s nary a Chuck E. Cheese in sight.


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