“My child is the only one…” The trials of taking a toddler to a music group

At the end of class today, I spoke to two parents

I made a beeline for a super lovely mum. Her little one, 16 months old, had been exploring his way across our music circle today: one minute banging on the huge central drum with all his might, then trying to carry a massive drum across the circle on his tiny wobbly legs, then standing a few inches from me and my guitar and grinning. He is always up to something new. I absolutely love watching him on his adventures in the class.

I always make sure to give the mum (and the little one of course) a huge smile at those moments. It’s as if I’m saying, “he’s fine! I love that he’s exploring.   Look, you can see how happy he is. He’s being musical in his own way.    It’s really ok!”

It often takes a lot of reassurance for that mum to start to relax. I tell her at the end: “there are children who are explorers like Josh (not his real name), in every class. I just wish that as the mums of those little ones, you could see each other, and know you aren’t the only one.”

“He’s always done his own thing” the mum tells me.

I smile again. “That ability to know his own mind is going to stand him in good stead as he grows up” I say.

She agrees. “It’s just that it’s so hard to have him do it now!” she says, and we laugh.

We speak about how we learned as children, how to fit in, how to do what was socially expected. And we go through our adult life, mostly knowing how to be in a group without attracting undue/ unwanted attention. “And then we have our kids, and they don’t seem to know the rules” she adds. “Yes” I nod. “And it’s Ok, there is so much time for that, and right now, he’s just interested in everything. It’s wonderful.” She smiles and relaxes “It is what I love about him. It makes it so much fun to be with him”. And I agree.

Across the circle I go and sit with another mum. The first week, her little one had retreated to his buggy, and watched the class from there. There had been a few tears, but she sensed that the class would be a good place to find his confidence. And he has. Week by week, he is grinning more and more. “I can see him joining in loads more” she says. I’ve noticed it too.   He is relaxing and playing with more instruments, moving further away from her. Every now and then, he still retreats and stands by the edge of the circle.   Like the other mum with the little explorer, she sighs and says, “it’s so hard to go to new groups. I don’t want anyone to think he’s begin rude by not joining in”. “He’s doing it on his own terms. He’s waiting ‘til his ready” I observe. “Yes. That’s his way. It always has been”. “It’s wonderful he’s allowed to do that. When we were growing up, I imagine our parents would just have pushed us into things” I say. “Yes” she agrees. “It still feels hard to not do that sometimes” she admits.

We all need the other grown ups in our children’s worlds to see our children for the wonderful individuals that they are.

It is so vulnerable to be a parent, going into a new group situation. I remember, especially with Ethan, my first baby, longing to let him be himself, and also personally wanting to fit in with the other mums.   I remember thinking people were noticing my little one doing his own thing, but of course they weren’t. I remind both mums (and many others of the years) that no one is judging them or their little one. They probably haven’t noticed, or are just enjoying your little one’s free spirit.

As we chat, I see them both relax, their shoulders drop, and they both beam at their toddlers. Which makes my day.   We all need the other grown ups in our children’s worlds to see our children for the wonderful individuals that they are. It helps us keep seeing them that way too. And the more we feel that joy in our children, the more they can grow into becoming adults who are really confident in their own skin and who simply love being themselves.

About me:

I set up Mish Mash Music 15 years ago with an aim to create a baby and toddler music group that supports little ones in growing their sense of themselves and their creativity.

A space for adults and their little ones to enjoy playing together in a loving, kind and playful environment.

Find a Class in St Albans

Amazing music classes in St Albans on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings by Verulamium Park, for little ones from 6 months to starting school.