Parenting

Open Letter to the Mom of That Active Little Boy in Music Class

Dear Mother of That Active Little Boy in Music Class,

You’re most likely too exhausted to have noticed me looking at you while the teacher has been making her way through her “Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” routine. I’ve been watching you because most of the time I am you. See, my toddler son can be a handful, too. It can be difficult to go to any structured class or setting with sons like ours. They don’t sit when other kids sit, or sing when other kids sing.

On this particular day, I begin to wonder if my own son is getting sick, since he’s sitting calmly in my lap. I don’t even remember the last time he did this. Normally, he’s doing exactly what your little guy is doing: climbing anything he can put his little feet on, grabbing the books in the room, trying to open the door, testing the babyproofing on the outlets, and basically doing anything other than what the other kids are being encouraged to do by the teacher.

Our sons are curious. They’re climbers. And they play by their own rules. They make up for their incredible energy and willful natures with unparalleled charm and affection. I can see this in your son, as he takes a brief moment when running by you to give you a good squeeze. And then off he goes, recharged by mommy’s love, ready to climb up to the window to look for another plane going by.

I can see in your face that this behavior is normal for you and your little man. You have learned to let him roam and explore and learn in his own way. You intervene if he’s getting into something dangerous or is disturbing the class, but you’ve given up trying to wrangle him to bring him back to the circle. Because it won’t work. It never works. Trying to make him sit and clap his hands to “If You’re Happy and You Know It” is tantamount to asking the dog to sit politely while you dangle a steak in front of him.

Sometimes your son surprises you by sitting with you and bopping his head to whatever tune the teacher is playing. You embrace this fleeting moment. You sing with him, and give him a quick kiss because you know that in a moment, and without notice, he’ll be off again, ready to tackle another part of the room.

You look around at the other mothers and kids in the class and can sometimes feel their stares. They watch your active little boy and don’t understand why he can’t sit still. But I look at you differently, because I get it. Your son is not misbehaving. He’s not disruptive or aggressive towards other kids. He’s just busy. And as mothers of busy little boys we know all too well that stifling their curiosity and energy wouldn’t be helping them in any way.

I recently attended a gym class with my son, who was being his active, investigative self, and encountered a mother with a similar little boy. We gave each other a knowing look. She pointed out that our kids’ personalities might make them leaders some day, because they certainly aren’t interested in following anyone else. I laughed and nodded. Maybe that’s true. The best thing we can do is to corral their energy into positive experiences and situations. They’ll take care of the rest. They know what they want, and they go for it. And that’s more than most people can say, at any age, let alone at 21 months.

So the next time we’re in class together, chances are my kid will be right by your kid, while the others sit calmly in their mothers’ laps. Just know that I get it, and that I’m right there with you.