Treadmills and Tantrums: Stories from the Gym

For exactly 41 days, I have been a card carrying gym member. That’s right! Seduced by New Year’s resolutions and ‘low, low joiner’s fees!’ on January 1st I marched my husband and son down the local fitness facility and procured a family membership. So be warned, fleshy-dumpling-like-armpit-fat-thingies: I’m coming for you! It so happens that the gym nearest our home is a bit fancier than gyms I’ve frequented in the past. Personally, I’ve never had access to state-of-the-art fitness equipment, full smoothie menu AND Botox in the same facility. I’m used to having to visit separate establishments for blended fruit drinks and injectable botulism toxin – I’ve come a long way baby! At this fancy new gym, I’ve yet to encounter anyone else’s snot in the drinking fountains; and the stretching area is conspicuously devoid of old, bearded hippies in denim cut-off shorts, practicing Renaissance Fair juggling routines with bean bags. Dorothy, we’re not at the Uptown Y anymore! Feeling like I have to slap on some lip gloss before I step onto one of their high-falutin’ elliptical machines is a small price to pay for this level of luxury.

Yet another perk to this Cadillac of gym memberships is the childcare center. Oh, the childcare center! A magical place that makes the Y daycare look like an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  There’s a computer area, a tiny basketball court and a playroom packed to the gills with Fisher Price’s finest. I haven’t asked, but I would assume toddler mani-pedis and hot stone massage are included with the price of membership. But for some reason, even with all these juice box wishes and graham cracker dreams, the thought of leaving my son there freaks me the hell out.

I realize the appointed care-givers are both carefully screened and highly qualified. I realize, also, that the area is totally secure and procedures for drop-off and pick-up are appropriately rigid. Still, I have mini-panic attacks when I think about it. What if he cries? What if he chokes on a Lego? What if he tells them I force him to listen to N*Sync while I’m making dinner? The stakes seem all too high. Worries about injury, potential abandonment issues, or that he may wander off and open a Roth IRA at the neighboring bank have kept me from taking advantage of the graciously allotted 2 hours of childcare per day. What, pray tell, is a neurotic mother to do?

Having no problem whatsoever utilizing our daily 2 hours, my husband offered an ingenious solution for ripping off the proverbial Band-Aid in one swift motion: Parent’s Night Out. That’s right! For a scant $15, you can show up at six o’clock, drop-off your bundle of joy, and LEAVE THE BUILDING!!! Provided, of course, you return to claim them by 10PM. At sign-up, they assured my husband that only two times in the history of Parent’s Night Out have adults been called back before the four hours were up to rescue an inconsolable child. These people knew what they were doing – and plus, there would be pizza! What could go wrong? (There may have been a brief tirade over their blatant insensitivity to children with food-allergies, before my husband gently reminded me our son has none). I had to admit, it seemed pretty perfect. I reluctantly submitted and that Friday night we dropped the little man off and headed out for our fist grown-ups only dinner in ages.

We enjoyed a leisurely, lovely meal at an adorable Italian restaurant; complete with wine and with absolutely no spilled apple juice or projectile macaroni and cheese. Upon returning to the gym, we marched up to the childcare desk and proclaimed, “We’re here to pick up Miles”. To which the kindly daycare provider replied, “Miles? Oh…”

As it turns out, we nearly became the third family in the history of Parent’s Night Out to be called back before the four hours were up to rescue an inconsolable child. There were 42 children there (and five adults that I could see – there may have been more in back, weeping in the fetal position) and MY son was the difficult one. Fantastic! But even though the night started with an epic crying jag, and even though the childcare center looked less like the orderly, controlled scenario I recalled and more like Lord of the Flies on Pixie Sticks, I still felt like we’d accomplished something. I had ripped the Band-Aid and we’d all survived! All things considered – I’m calling this one a win. And maybe next time I’ll use this newfound daring to sneak in a few minutes of cardio, rather than leaving the building to gorge on pasta… maybe.