Ender started in the Gymboree Play and Learn stage 2 at the beginning of December, when he turned 6 months old. He had just been starting to make crawling like attempts, and I thought maybe getting him at a place like Gymboree would help get him going.
His favorite place to experiment with movement is our bed. He has been wriggling and moving himself there for well over a month now, but when he gets on floors, carpet or hardwood, he tends to be a lot more cautious, which is probably pretty smart now that I think about it. Since Gymboree is just padded everywhere, I thought it might let him be more adventurous, without me having to drag him back from a bed edge every few minutes.
It didn’t work out quite as expected. First of all, Ender had almost no interest in trying anything at all at Gymboree. Maybe if I’d stuck around longer he would have gotten used to the newness and started to play more, but the bright colors seemed to bewilder him and something about the way the room was built made sounds echo unnervingly- it gave me a headache, and I suspect it is part of what kept Ender static. He DID love the colored wiffle balls, but you know, balls are easy to come by, and I’m not sure he loved them because of any particular quality of their own, or just because it was the only thing in the play area that was small enough for him to handle and shove in his mouth. By the end of the month, he was also pretty interested in the bubbles, which prompted me to buy some for him, since he’s never taken the slightest notice before.
It’s possible that Ender was just too young for something like Gymboree. Aside from thinking it might get him crawling a little sooner, I didn’t want or expect some miracle exercise routine. I don’t think it’s necessary or advisable to push that kind of thing on babies. Mainly, I think the purpose of baby activities such as Gymboree is to keep people like me sane, giving them something to do and a reason to get dressed and leave the house. I was disappointed all around though: Ender pretty much just sat there and watched everything until he got overwhelmed enough to cry (admittedly not often). And though he was the youngest baby in the class, the other babies didn’t seem much more engaged in the equipment or activities than he was. Left to their own devices, the babies played with the whiffle balls, and maybe occasionally grabbed the mini trampoline. Everything else was parent led, urging the babies to go down parallel slides together and watch each other to promote socialization (not kidding) or ride in the boat (the babies seemed pretty bored with it after the first 20 seconds) or roll a ball down the slope (they preferred to hang on to the balls actually, thank you very much). Not only is this overly parent-directed style pretty contrary to my ideas about parenting, it also made socialization a bit strained, because we were too busy trying to entertain babies who would have been content to chew on wiffle balls.
What it comes down to I think, is that I’m spoiled. When Ender was about 3 months old I discovered story time at the local library. Then I realized that there are seven different Cuyahoga County libraries within 20 minutes of my house, and they ALL have story time. I can go to story time every weekday- a story time geared towards 0-18 month olds. It’s short, about 15 minutes, which is about as long as the babies can go without getting restless, and it’s followed by an open play time with library baby toys. We do rhymes, songs, and usually one or two short picture books. And it’s FREE. During the free play after I can chat with other moms (and the occasional dad) while Ender gnaws on the library toy nearest him, and then when he decides he’s had enough, we can leave. If he’s cranky, or ready for a nap, or if something else comes up on any particular day, I can skip story time without feeling guilty, because 1) it’s (once again now) FREE and 2) I know I can try again the next day. Ender loves watching the other kids, (far more of which are crawling around at story time then Gymboree) and the only suggested “activity” is, you know, reading stories. I decided to give Gymboree a try in December, because the story time series took a break over December. It started back up today.
So Gymboree didn’t do much for us. I have to realize though that this is only because I already had something better.
*Gymboree image from flickr user sully213
Tonight was my first craft night.
Then of course Ender came and planning ANYTHING seemed pretty unlikely. As he’s gotten older though, he’s getting a bit easier, and more importantly, more predictable, so I started to think about it again a few months ago. I thought January, the new year, seemed like a good time to start up fresh.
I told everyone to come on the first Wednesday of every month. We planned on Matt being home and pretty much taking over baby-duty for the evening.
We did NOT really think about the fact that the first Wednesday in January was right in the middle of way too much travel. Planning an event, even a low key one, is sort of intimidating when you can’t think past planning out when you get to wash laundry between packing and unpacking the suitcase.
Craft night MEAGAN style is beyond low key though. I told everyone from the start, we will not be doing Martha Stewart type projects. Or at least, anyone is welcome to do Martha Stewart projects, but I will not be organizing them. I invited everyone to bring whatever they were working on, or if they weren’t working on anything, to have some tea or coffee.
I expected 5, but 2 canceled at the last minute and for 1, I think, I had the wrong email. Kim brought a whole craft store worth of craft supplies, and started a shell-chain necklace. Pam, a knitter, didn’t bring her knitting, but started a cute leather-bead bracelet that reminded me of a beading class I took half a lifetime ago.
I just worked on getting the last of the gunk off the glitter bottles, so now Ender can finally play with them.
It was a quiet evening of relaxed socializing, which is exactly what I wanted and needed, and I think the others had fun as well. And since Kim brought all the crafty stuff, there was zero clean-up beyond banishing the pizza box to the fridge- which is about all I’m up for in my current sleep deprived state. I’m looking forward to doing it next month, and maybe then I’ll even get to make something.
Matt and I debated about giving Ender such a loaded nickname. Forget the fact that Ender Wiggin killed two children (in self defense) before he was 12, and forget that he unknowingly committed mass xenocide. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, a summary of Ender’s Game should help.)
Ignoring all of the acts he was tricked or pushed into committing, there’s still the problem of (the character) Ender’s own experience: his childhood didn’t exist, and once “freed” from the training of killing buggers he spent the rest of his life trying to absolve himself of the guilt of that war. He is never at any kind of peace until he marries Novinha on Lusitania some… 3000(?) years later, and that is a half-peace, under shared guilt and the weight of disaster.
It’s not something anyone would wish on a child, and names are nothing if not wishes for our children. Look at the most common meanings of names: beautiful, lucky, joyous, strong.
Except the character of Ender is not just the sum of his actions and experiences. He’s the most compassionate bad-ass imaginable. Oh, and a genius besides. And everyone he comes in contact with can’t help but love him. These are far from bad things, even if they are the very traits that get him into Battle School, and more importantly, the traits that pushed him to the top of Battle School, and ultimately made him responsible for winning the Bugger war.
We played with other nicknames. When I talked to him while I was pregnant, I usually called him “Ollie.” It’s funny, it seemed automatic at the time, but now Ollie is a totally different being: Ollie was the fetus and I can’t imagine this baby being anyone but Ender. Of course he could decide he hates it when he gets older, but fortunately Olivander lends itself to all sorts of nicknames. These days I’ve given up on telling people Ender is “short for” Olivander, because generally it just confuses them.
Matt and I both loved the name Olivander, but we weren’t settled on it. I’d thought of the name Ender independently, but wanted to give our baby a name with some meaning aside from a literary character, and Ender, as far as I know, has no meaning beyond the literal “one who ends,” which is not the most auspicious of meanings for a baby. As a nickname though, it’s an entirely different matter.
We were listening to the audiobook of Ender’s Game, and all its sequels, on a series of long trips. Matt had read Ender’s Game before, but not recently enough to remember it. I’ve read it so often I have bits memorized (which isn’t actually unusual… that is true of many of my books). As we got to the end of one of the books, Matt said, “couldn’t we name him Ender?” He was half joking. I grinned at him and pointed out that if Ender could be a nickname for Andrew, surely it could be a nickname for Olivander. I think we were pretty much decided after that.
When you think about it, any interesting literary character probably didn’t have a wonderful time of it- otherwise they wouldn’t be interesting. Misery and conflict is what makes a story. If we have a wish for our children, it would be boredom, and if naming our children were granting wishes, we would never name them for literary characters. No one wants their children to have adventures.
Naming isn’t wishgranting though, it’s giving. And if we are giving Ender anything from the character Ender, I hope it’s a taste of future, of things that seem impossible, of everyday beauty and love. Maybe the knowledge that nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and a bit of healthy distrust for authority. Independence but not loneliness, responsibility but not guilt. And especially a sense of open possibility.