Hell Hath No Fury, or, Why I won't be returning to Gymboree

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I do a lot of classes with my twin toddlers.  As a stay-at-home mom, I find the very last thing I want to do is actually stay at home.  Especially in the winter, when we can’t spend an hour out in the yard (though sometimes I try), we need quality indoor activities.

I’ve found there are particular things that make a class work, in particular when you have more than one child.  Obviously, a kind, organized, enthusiastic group leader or teacher is key, as is a child-safe space.  But even more than that, I find we do the best in classes that really allow toddlers to be toddlers.  And by that, I mean that sometimes one of my kids will be into circle time, and sometimes one of them will want to wander off and do their own thing.  At nearly 18 months old, this is not a question of poor behavior or budding ADHD.  It’s just toddlers.  And when you have two of them, your ability to keep both in your lap at a particular time is limited.  So I appreciate the classes where the space is safe and confined, and the teacher doesn’t mind if some children decide to do something different, as long as it isn’t disruptive or unsafe.  That’s why I’m in love with Music Together and the Little Gym.  There are fun, structured activities, but no one minds if one day they want to dance, and one day they want to sit quietly.

Which brings me to this morning.  My local moms of twins club organized a playgroup at a nearby Gymboree.  The club was going to cover part of the cost, so it was an hour of indoor activity for $5.  Sounds great!  Sign us up.  There were close to 20 kids, mostly sets of twins (some singleton siblings, too).  So you had roughly one adult for every two kids. And all of the moms (and nannies) in the room were used to that.  You can’t always have a hand on both kids at all times, but we help each other out and keep an eye on our kids.

Start off with the fact that the teacher/leader was late, the door was locked, and we stood out in the cold.  My Rebecca, who had already had a rough morning, was getting pretty upset.  We finally got in, and I’m trying to calm her down while preventing Daniel from running on the mats before I can get his shoes off.  It’s a little nutty, and Rebecca’s having a bit of a meltdown, but I’m trying to get everything under control.  What does the teacher say to me?  “You know, if she’s going to keep crying, you can feel free to leave.”  Um. What?  I thought she was kidding. But no, she continued, “I don’t want them to be crying in my class.”

OK. Step off.  I’ve been inside for approximately 60 seconds.  My kid was cold. My kid is a toddler, for crying out loud. And you’re going to suggest that I might want to leave.  Hoo boy, you can bet I almost did.  But I had friends there, so I decided to stay. (Steam coming out of my ears.)

It didn’t get much better from there.  The teacher was unclear and not well-organized. She got really annoyed when the kids didn’t want to (or didn’t understand how to) do exactly the activity she had in her mind. She made no effort to teach us any of the songs, but seemed put out that we didn’t sing along.  She put out the parachute, but didn’t want the kids to shake it, or really, in any way interact with it until she was ready.  And when my daughter was climbing on one of the play structures and it tipped over (she was fine, just startled), I got lectured about how “that’s why we always tell the parents to stay within ‘hugs reach’.”  I was a few feet from my daughter when it happened, not off in another room eating bon-bons. And she was using the structure in its intended manner, not climbing somewhere she shouldn’t have been. I nearly decked the teacher, but instead scooped up my kids and left.

I know it’s not easy having a room full of toddlers.  I understand she must have been overwhelmed to not have the usual 1:1 adult-to-child ratio. I don’t expect playgroup teachers to be super-human.  But I do expect them to have some fundamental understanding of the nature of the age they’re teaching, which includes flexibility, clarity, and good humor.

And I’m sure there are Gymboree teachers out there who have that gift.  But, I can assure you, my kids and I (and our money) will not be returning.  It was bad from any objective standpoint.  But especially when you have two kids to watch and take care of, I really need a class that is accepting of the nature of toddlers, not one that fights it.


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18 thoughts on “Hell Hath No Fury, or, Why I won't be returning to Gymboree”

  1. My Gymboree doesn’t allow twins unless there are two adults there. That’s why we don’t do it! I can TOTALLY understand the 1:1 ratio with places they might die (swim class?), Gymbo is as close to a padded insane asylum as you can get.

    I used to be very understanding of this policy until I realized that my day care teachers keep 12 kids in line with just two adults.

  2. Holy CRAP! Ya – totally understandable why you wouldn’t go back. Geeeeeez. talk about snarky and not in the right environment – that “teacher” needs a reality dose.

    Wonder what would happen if you logged a formal complaint…

  3. Wow I was in a totally Zen place (drinking coffee/blog reading ahhhh) while reading this and I AM annoyed for you!!! I can’t believe she “doesn’t ALLOW crying”. Bottom line: There is NO WAY she has children!!! Anyways I feel your pain. Thankfully our library is totally cool with my son Eli roaming around the room while Alex and I enjoy the stories and music. I do stop him when he attempts to erase the story board that displays the letter of the day or tear the children’s art off the walls but other than that we are golden. Oh and yes he did do both of those things. Thankfully everyone realized that he is a 21 month old TODDLER! Sorry about your experience and may that women get thrown up on in the near future by a child that is throwing a temper tantrum and has a snotty nose. Am I really that evil??? YIKES!

  4. I agree with Nancy. You should totally file a complaint with Gymboree. Her attitude towards you and your children was unprofessional and rude. I am a big proponent of letting business owners know if their employees don’t perform up to par. I would want to know. You should also contact the Better Business Bureau. Good Luck!

  5. Holy crap!!!! How ridiculous, especially since this was an event ORGANIZED for MMOTA. I’ve heard bad things about Gymboree, especially for twins, but this takes the cake. I think you should title this “Why I love the Little Gym”. I can’t imagine them saying ANY of this stuff. I guess that the instructor didn’t lend a hang when necessary, either?!

  6. Wow, I was feeling bad that my kids had school in the morning and I had to miss the event. Now I’m glad I did!

    And I’m also glad that I always dismissed Gymboree as too pricey. Glad I didn’t waste my $$!

  7. It makes me mad just reading your post! The no crying bit is unbelievable … umm, gymboree is for toddlers … there’s gonna be crying! I think you should file a complaint … plus, the teacher was late!

  8. Geeeeeez. Kudos to you for not decking that fruit loop, she totally had it coming. Who did she think she was teaching? Mannequins? Toddlers do tend to move around and make noise. Kind of what they’re known for!

  9. I had the same reaction as Rebecca. Seriously, if they are not “open” to twins why would they have agreed to this event? That’s why we love Music Together – because 1) it’s easier on the one parent taking the three kids and 2) the kids are free to be themselves. I used to be sad there wasn’t a Gymboree in our area but you have gotten me past all that with this post!

  10. Gymboree is sadly notorious for not allowing twins without two parents (or two adults)….with how much they charge, they should have spares on hand! 😉

    The way you were treated was inexcusable…they should do adults-only classes if the leaders are no more child-friendly than that.

    From what I’ve heard, complaints fall on deaf ears. Speak loudly with a non-consumer stick.

    Sorry your day was so rough. :(

  11. That stinks!! I am so sorry to hear about this. I really, really do hope that you call the manager tomorrow and let her know what a disappointment this was. I would ask for a refund of the $5 too – not about the money, but geez people. If it is an event for twin Moms, what a surprise to find that you might have twins there. My blood is boiling thinking about it. Hope that you are having a better day now!!

  12. I’m a so annoyed for you. About a year ago I talked with our local librarian about taking my daughters to story time and she actually said I would have to keep them in a stroller. Huh?? I asked if the other kids stayed in strollers and she said no but since I had quadruplets she didn’t want to risk having my four run around. What’s stopping a singleton from running around? Needless to say we never went to story time.

  13. Wow! That’s too bad. Gymboree is a franchise, so it totally depends on the owners and teacher at a particular facility. We had great experiences at Gymboree when my littles were, well, little (toddler age). But we had an owner who had multiples herself (plus I-don’t-remember-how-many-other kids!) and all the teachers we had were just terrific.

    Sorry you had a bad experience. Glad you’re enjoying Music Together — we still listen to those CDs in our car 3 years later!

  14. That’s craziness! So sorry your gymboree sucked like that. Unacceptable. Ours has been amazing and welcomes twins w/ one parent w/ open arms. In fact, sometimes I think the twins families are overrunning the place; at open gym last week there were 4 sets, and the manager was proud of it. For the most part, the teachers have been fantastic, too.

  15. oh, you are good. I would have told her off in a room full of people and then very carefully written down her full name and informed her I would pass her attitude along to her superior. This could be why no one likes me 😉

    she needs to be beaten in an alley. Perhaps I need more coffee…

    I hope you guys have more wintertime fun and less clueless gymboree ladies. sheesh.

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