Thursday, October 4, 2012

Not The Experience I Expected

In the beginning of September, Lily started gymnastics at a local gym near us. I was looking for a place for our energetic, loves-to-run, climbing 2 year old...especially with winter rapidly approaching where we'll be more contained to the house.

Gymnastics seemed the perfect fit. The evening class we first tried to join was full, so we chose the next best for us on Thursday mornings.

Lily is a joyful little person. Her excitement about involvement in gymastics was no exception. She would grin from the moment we arrived, running from the car to the door to go in, and squeal with excitement while bolting into the gym.

The class is a parent/child class that begins with the coach/teacher explaining the "circuit" for the day using a toddler as a model for each activity.  Lily was always ready to just get to it, so it took some restraint on my part to keep her on my lap and work with her to learn to listen.  Fortunately, that time was short and then we'd be off to work on the activities.

Lily squeals.    A LOT.               Especially when excited.

Most of the other toddlers {18 months- 3 years} in the class were much more timid and reserved. 

So, child...the loud one.

I felt it.

The judging.

The first week, a mom said loudly enough to be heard as Lily ran squealing past her, "Jesus.Christ." Judgey mom completed her disdain with furled eyebrows and a look of disgust as she turned her head to follow my daughter after Lily blew past her.

Sadly, I expect judgment between women. and although irritating, I wasn't there to make friends. I was there for my daughter.

I was surprised, however, the judgment was as apparent from the coach/teacher.

After each class, I'd come home, George would ask me how it was and my response was that Lily had a blast, loves it, but was loud and I tried to keep that in check.  He said, "It's not church. It's gymnastics, right?"  Leave it to my husband to keep my perspective in check.

Last Thursday morning, we headed off to the class as normal. Same scenario as above: grinning from the moment we arrived, running from the car to the door to go in, and squealing with excitement while bolting into the gym.

We made our way to the circle to sit after I wrangled Lily back from the trampoline for us to listen to the instruction. As the teacher was beginning to explain a particular station, she called for "Screaming Girl,  come show us..."  I simply said, "Lily?"

"Screaming girl" 

She's 2.

She loves the environment.

She squeals.

Thank God, she is too young to understand she was being degraded and insulted.

But, I am not too young.

I worked with my daughter through each of the stations unsure of what I was going to do at the conclusion of the class. Address it directly with the instructor? Talk with the administration? I needed to continue processing it to make the right decision.

As we moved into the larger room as a group, Lily squealed again running into the room where she would be allowed to run in a circle immediately after we were in there anyway, and another comment was made by the "teacher", as Lily blew by. This one was more subtle and indirect.

At that point, I had difficulty holding back my emotions. I teared up as I stood waiting for the "teacher' to finish instruction. Another mother noticed, came over and offered sympathy and support. I then said out loud, "This is not the place for us."

I let Lily finish out the class enjoying herself and squealing about it. At the conclusion, I headed to the front office to find out how to withdraw my daughter from an environment where it was made abundantly clear she was disliked by the instructor.

Unfortunately, I was so upset I had difficulty expressing to the administrative assistant WHY I was upset, but she was able to discern that I needed Lily withdrawn. She asked sympathetically, "Awww, is she just not ready?" and I replied, "No, you all are just not ready for HER."  I briefly explained that I was offended she was called "Screaming girl" instead of her name TO her and I left in tears. {this actually made me very angry at myself that I was so emotional about it that I couldn't effectively express my experience.}

Upon arriving home, I explained what happened to my husband.  Suffice to say, the fact that he wasn't present when our daughter was degraded, was probably in everyone's best interests. He is fiercely protective and his handling would have been drastically different than my own.  I love this about him. Knowing someone ALWAYS has my back feels so very safe.

There were a lot of tears on my end throughout the day as I continued processing how I would handle the situation as well processing the actual events.

I realized that I was feeling as though I needed to apologize for WHO my daughter is.  And THAT. I. WILL. NOT. DO.  She is a joyful, rambunctious TWO YEAR OLD who is learning to navigate life. I'm not naive mother who believes she does no wrong. She wears my patience thin some days and it's a consistent effort to ensure she listens.  That's her job. To be a kid.  It's MY job to teach her.  It's also my job to protect her.

I wrote a formal complaint and hand delivered it later in the afternoon. I asked to speak to the woman who runs the gym about the situation. She was not present that afternoon when I delivered my letter, but the afternoon admin knew who I was when I'd walked in, that I'd left upset that morning and that my experience was far less than satisfying.  I was assured that the woman in charge/owner would receive my letter and contact me. The afternoon admin listened to my recounting of the events sympathetically and assured me that the "teacher" was going to be spoken to about this situation.  I requested a refund for the month's tuition that I paid, as well as the registration fee.

This occurred one week ago today.

I have yet to receive a response.

After a high recommendation from someone I trust with my children to start at this particular facility, I could not feel more disgusted by the entire experience.

Screaming Girl's mom is about to become Screaming Mom.

"September 27, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

I have an extremely active 26 month old who until this morning was enrolled in your Dipper & Me class.  I am writing this to express my tremendous disappointment with our experience at your gym and class.

We began on September 6, 2012, in the Thursday morning 9:30a.m.class.  This was my daughter’s first experience in an organized/structured class. I had chosen to enroll her in gymnastics based on her energy level believing this would be the best option for her as an active toddler.  --------- came highly recommended to us from our older children’s school counselor whose opinions I greatly value.  As a result, I had zero hesitation in choosing ---------- for our experience. 

As I stated previously, I have an extremely active child. She squeals with excitement and she is learning to sit and listen to instruction. When in an environment filled with an abundance of items to jump and play on, she is ready to go from the moment she enters the room.  I sit with her as we listen to instruction for the class activities and often she is trying to escape to get started, often squealing to get away and begin.  As I said, she’s active and excited and learning to follow instruction.

In the past three classes we have attended, I have felt badly that she squeals as she runs through the room as I’ve watched her instructor roll her eyes as well as comment about my daughter.  Today, the final straw was the instructor calling my daughter, “Screaming Girl” instead of by her name. I feel it was inappropriate and degrading.  As a former kindergarten teacher, I would have received disciplinary action if I had called a student “Screaming Girl” when asking her to come model a station instead of by her name.  It is simply not appropriate.

I did not address it at the moment as the class was just beginning. Shortly after when the instructor was assisting my daughter in a station, I stated that I felt badly she was the loudest one in the class, but she is simply excited and loves to participate.

When I overheard an additional comment made about her squealing as we moved into the adjacent room, I had decided at that moment that I needed to find out how to withdraw my daughter as I felt the environment was not a positive one for her.  I was visibly upset as another mother came over and expressed her concern to me as well. 

I’m extremely disappointed in our experience and treatment in your facility. For $92.00, my child was degraded and I was made to feel she was doing something wrong for the 3 classes we attended.  We missed the 2nd week due to illness and were set to attend the makeup class tomorrow night. To pay $30.00 a class to leave feeling degraded each week is quite honestly just not right place for us. I’m saddened because she loves being there, however, I’m also grateful she is young enough she has no idea how she was treated.

I stopped at the counter on my way out to find out how to withdraw and was asked sympathetically, “Awww, she’s just not ready?”  I replied that wasn’t the case, rather your facility was just not ready for her.  Through tears, I shared that it was not appropriate for my daughter to be called, “Screaming Girl” rather than by her name when being spoken to.  The woman at the desk has always been wonderfully kind and extremely helpful. Today was no exception.  She handled withdrawing my daughter immediately.

As stated previously, we were referred to you via a high recommendation and as a result we recommended another family to your facility whose experience has been vastly different than ours. That simply confirms to me that the issue lies with the instructor towards my 2 year old daughter.

As a result of our short and completely unsatisfactory time with your facility and treatment, I am requesting a full and complete refund of my $40.00 registration fee and the $52.00 monthly fee I paid for the first month for a total of $92.00.

I can be reached to discuss this further at _________ at any time.

Best regards,

Stephanie __________"


  1. Hugs momma. You know how I feel about this & Lily deserves better!

  2. You handled this situation very well. I don't know how I would have handled it myself. I know a few people that went to Jewarts for years and they loved it and Jewarts has always had a reputation for being a great place. I really hope that the owner gets back to you and can at the very least help close the door on this terrible situation. No child should ever be degraded, no matter what their behavior! Hugs to you mama!

  3. I'm am in total mama bear mode right now. How dare they look down on Lily for being excited and BEING TWO. Does this instructor not have her own kids? My house is loud and joyful, as it should be with an 18 month old and 3 year old. Kids are wild and crazy and exuberant. And knowing her mom ;) I'M SURE Lily is too. I'm so sorry you and Lil were treated like this. It's so, so not okay. How dare that instructor. I would have pulled George. And had something to say to that other mom giving Lily dirty looks. Apparently her kids never have any fun. Hugs Steph. You are an AMAZING mom. Screw them. Lily is perfect.

  4. I went ahead and reached out to the gym as a supporter. Maybe everyone should do the same. This is what I said:

    Dear Jewarts,
    I have a 34 month old little girl who I have been considering enrolling into your dipper and me class. I had talked to a friend that had enrolled her child with you, and was excited about the prospect of this and looking forward to having my child join.
    Then, a month later I read her blog post (which reaches hundreds of readers) and read all about how her daughter -while in her class at your gym - was called the "screaming girl" by the teacher, and the mother felt completely judged, and so upset. She withdrew her child and reached out to you to try to get some understanding, and a refund, to no avail. I am SO glad the teacher called and apologized personally and tried to make it better, but I am disappointed to hear that there has been nothing from you.
    I can't imagine my child attending a place where she might get degraded, or judged for being a happy, excited little girl with an outlet to get her energy out.
    I just can't. So I am just letting you know that I won't be enrolling my child with your gym. There has to be a more professional and compassionate gym with better business practices out there.

  5. This post just breaks my heart. I have so many thoughts that I don't even know how to say them. But my primary thought is: she is TWO and this is a gymnastics class? What do they expect? I'm pretty sure Grace and Ana might be similar in such a situation. It would be one thing if she was squealing in, let's say, CHURCH. But this is a place for young kids to expend energy... in all forms. You absolutely did the right thing, albeit the hard choice to make. I hope I would be as brave as you.

    Just as an affirmation, I would have reacted in the same way. I can never think of what to say until the moment is over and usually tears get to me before my rational thought does! Lots of love to you and Lily!

    PS those pictures of her are just darling!!

  6. You know my opinion on this matter. I hope they give you back your money!

  7. This is SO wrong. She's a little girl. Not a seasoned gymnast! I hope you get your money back. And I have a niece who took a dance class at age 2. She spent most of her time dancing to her own music or looking in the mirror. She was lucky. The dance teacher just tried to corral her back into the dance class. They expect too much from such young children.