Earlier this year, I did some writing about how I value the health of my daughter’s body over the way it looks. One of the ways I want to help her develop healthy habits is by getting her involved in activities that encourage her to be physically active. Almost all of my childhood memories of gym class are extremely negative, and I have always disliked exercise for the sake of exercise. I cheated in gym class in the third or fourth grade by claiming I’d run one more lap than I really had around the field behind the school. I got cut from the seventh grade basketball team during the first round of try-outs. My glasses got busted up when I got hit in the face with a soccer ball during seventh grade gym class. I finished the freshman triathlon in last place. I begrudgingly kept track of my exercise habits for my college’s Fit For Life class, hating every minute of it.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that I do, in fact, enjoy physical activity and exercise. I love riding a bike, hiking the trails at Mounds State Park, and doing yoga DVDs in my living room. When Chalupa was healthier and we were broke, we entertained ourselves by going on really long walks through our neighborhoods in Upland, Indiana and Somersworth, New Hampshire. Backpacking on a hilly fifty-mile trail in Southern Indiana is one of my favorite accomplishments of the last ten years. I just had to discover that exercise isn’t about participating in a team sport that makes me feel bad about myself or running laps with classmates that were always going to be far faster than me.

I’d like to help Ruthie develop a healthy enjoyment of physical activities without subjecting her to the pressure of an exercise regimen. She is small for her age, and her doctor has suggested that she will always have low muscle tone and hypermobile joints, and it breaks my heart that she cries sometimes about not being able to keep up with her cousins and friends when they are playing outside together. I was slower than all the other kids at school, too, and I don’t want her to develop the same kind of hatred of activity that I used to have.

Enter: Ballet class!

Ballet for three-year-olds might not be rigorous exercise (or rigorous anything, really), but it does keep Ruthie moving and active in a way that she enjoys. I hope that getting her involved in activities like this get her to associate movement and exercise with something fun.

Ruthie has been in her Early Ballet class for little kids for the past eight weeks, and she loves it. Well, most of the time. Last week I told her she couldn’t leave the stage to eat crackers in the auditorium where they were practicing for the big show, so she stonewalled both her teacher and me for the rest of the class, refusing to participate. Otherwise, though, she enjoys the class, her classmates, and her teacher Ms. Val and can’t wait to go back every week. A few weeks ago, The Star Press sent a videographer to interview Ruthie’s teacher and get some footage of the class.

I’d love to embed this video, but the code provided by the newspaper website isn’t working. (I even had Chalupa, my in-house tech genius, confirm that I’m not doing something wrong.) At the 0:46 mark, Ruthie is the kid on the far right.

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