How my shy toddler found her confidence

Jennifer shares how a gymnastics class helped her shy daughter come out of her shell.

Gillian takes on the balance beam.

I worked full-time after my son was born and it seemed the transition from baby to big boy happened overnight. During my maternity leave he was, of course, still a baby. But after nearly two years as a working mother, when I left my career to be a stay-at-home mom I was faced with a three-year-boy who I hardly recognized.
As a stay-at-home mom with my two-year-old daughter I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the change from infant to toddler in slow-motion (some days, admittedly, are painfully slow). I’ve questioned whether or not my attachment parenting methods have made her more clingy than my son, who is fearless and independent.For 33 months, its been me attending the parent and tot classes with her, tucking her in at nap time and preparing all of her meals. I’ve been the one to kiss the “ouchies” or push her in a swing at the park. Because of this, I’ve worried that she will grow up to be less confident than my son, who learned at a very young age to trust the strangers that took him into their care. I credit Isaac’s loving nannies with helping to develop his outgoing and confident nature. My daughter, on the other hand, spends her days with me, and is very shy and slow to trust new people (especially men).

But this week something amazing happened. For the last 10 weeks Gillian and I have been attending a parent and tot gymnastics class. Coached by a lovely young woman that Gillian instantly took a shine to, my once-shy baby girl has become more confident in new surroundings and around strangers. At the end of the first session of gymnastic classes, her coach suggested that I put Gillian in the unparented Kindergym program, designed for three- and four-year-old children. She thinks that Gillian has some talent. Gillian is at least six to 10 months younger than all of the other students — and then there is that whole clingy thing. I had big doubts that her first unparented class would actually be unparented.
All week I chatted up how much fun she would have with her coach and new friends — and that I’d be there if she needed me. I tried to choke back my anxiety as we walked into class on Monday, convinced that she could smell my fear. But she surprised me by letting go of my pinky finger and running into the huge practice area to hug her coach. My heart was in my throat the whole time and, no, she didn’t make the whole class without faking needing a potty break and needing a reassuring hug. But, from high above in the observation area, there were no signs of my shy baby on the gymnastics floor — I saw a confident and fearless little girl. One that just needed a little bit more time to find her way in the world.Do you have a more introverted child? Did certain activities bring them out of their shell?

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