. . .Gymboree.

I’m serious when I say that it’s expensive. I mean. . . for a young couple like us, just getting started on a good career-path. . . and not having a lot of money. . . It’s expensive. In the spirit of blogging honestly, I’m not going to beat around the bush; it costs $65 a month.

That being said, I think it’s one of the greatest things we’ve done for Charlie in a long time.

A few weeks back, my friend Erin invited Charlie and I to join her and her adorable daughter at a Gymboree class. I said yes.

And I’m not going to lie, I proceeded to totally freak myself out about it. Charlie and I are home by ourselves most of the time. I’ve got mom-friends. . . but none of them have kids that are Charlie’s age. If they’re older, they think, “Seriously, why doesn’t this kid understand sharing!?” and if they’re younger, they think, “Seriously, why is this kid taking my stuff and smacking me around?”

So, whenever we get invited to social events, I get neurotic. I had a vision in my head of a group of moms with their quiet, well-behaved children in their laps, singing songs and playing patty-cake. While that may have been nice for Charlie, say, 12 months ago, it’s definitely not his scene right now.

But we went, and when I walked in the door and saw the play-safe, indoor-wonderland of Gymboree, I almost cried. I had no idea what the actual class was going to be like, but I immediately felt better.

Charlie saw another kid go in through the double doors (which, by the way, lock so that munchkins can’t escape) and flew in after him. The woman at the desk asked if his shoes were still on, I said yes, and she laughed and told me she’d go get his shoes while I filled out the sign-in sheet.

She laughed. She didn’t turn her nose up at me and say, “Can’t you control your child, woman?” She good-naturedly took after my kid and removed his shoes so he could play freely.

The class was perfect. A teacher sang songs and tried to get all the kids to come with their “grown-ups” to the mat. After welcome songs were over, the teacher got out “big and little balls” and placed them all around the play-area. She would say things like, “Charlie, can you roll the BIG ball down the LITTLE slide?”

As a side note, this first class we tried was a “level 4.” Charlie’s now in the “level 5” age group, where they focus more on imagination (pretending to be bears, etc…).

What really, truly eased my Mommy-soul, however, is the fact that they have no interest inforcing kids to participate. This meant that Charlie could frolic about as he pleased, but ended up joining in the activities when he saw the other kids having fun.

The part that Charlie likes the best is Parachute Time.

This is when the teacher lays out a big parachute, turns on the appropriate “bubble music,” and starts blowing millions of tiny little bubbles. Charlie gleefully hops about, popping bubbles, shouting, “Bah! Bah!”

“Bah bah,” in case you were wondering, means, “pop pop.”

After the bubble song is over, the kids get to sit on the parachute and chill while the parents turn it in circles. This may not sound all that exciting, but Charlie totally digs it.

Here’s the thing: Charlie is getting structured play with a recurring set of kids that he is becoming familiar with. He’s starting to understand that he can’t simply have whatever he wants right at that moment, because other kids need to play with things, too.

This doesn’t mean he’s a sharing expert. At all. But it does mean that he’s discovering the existence of this “sharing phenomenon,” and I think he’s going to get the hang of it much sooner than he would have otherwise.

He actually gave a little girl a ball that he was obviously attached to, and he even said “Thank you,” (“deh dooh”) after she gave it back.

That, friends, is fairly miraculous.

So, for us so far, the price is worth it. Members also have access to “open gym,” where the kids can run about freely and listen to kid-music while parents hang out with them and enjoy the safe and contained toddler fun.

If you’ve got a Gymboree in your area, you should definitely call them up and schedule a free trial class. Even if it’s too expensive for you, the free trial is a good experience and gives you something to think about for the future.

What about you guys? Would you shell out that much money for something like this?