Anyone who has ever belonged to a playgroup knows that for it to be successful, and by that I mean last longer than a month, it is really about the moms. There are the larger goals of teaching children social skills: how to share, respect another person’s space, handle conflict. But if the moms don’t crave each other’s company enough, the inevitable temper tantrumpulooza, that is any playgroup, is more than enough to keep you home.
Playgroups are sometimes tranquil and harmonious. When you think back on them. In the moment they are chaotic. Not for the faint of heart or the highly sensitive. You get to see your child at his very best and then ten seconds later, his very worst. You smile and try to pretend like you’ve never seen this behavior before, but as soon as the moms become friends, a wonderful thing happens. You stop making excuses for your child and your parenting. Instead you lose yourself in some coffee and choose laughter over the alternative tear fest for whatever toddleresque behavior has just occurred.
The women I spend Tuesday mornings with have become my friends. Trusted confidants, worthy advisors. I look forward to their stories and anticipate our weekly exchange of ideas and frustrations. Oh yeah and the kids get to play too.
The other morning after hosting playgroup, as I began wading through toys, muffins, sippy cups, pieces of paper, forgotten socks and the usual littering of coffee mugs, a memory of my first playgroup came rushing back. I joined desperate for my son, then all of six months, to meet some other babies. We were new to the area and truth be told I was just plain lonely.
I had decided to stay home for a few years, something I’d never done on weekends let alone seven days a week. We had just moved two hours from family and friends for my husband’s job, and it felt like I was nursing every fifteen minutes. So I set out in search of a playgroup. For my son.
I arrived at the first group a little frazzled. Or annoyed or demeaned or something. I couldn’t believe I had bundled my little one up to go meet strangers. It was like something out of a movie, a bad made-for-TV one.
Was I supposed to bring something for the host? I wished I’d remembered some toys for John to play with. I didn’t want him catching a cold from a play date. On and on my mind swirled. Until finally I rang the doorbell and met the other moms and their adorable babies. We spent the next two hours marveling at our budding geniuses as they rolled and poked each other. We talked about all the things new moms talk about. Feeding, sleep deprivation, diapers. It was a delightful morning.
After several attempts at scheduling, we never met again. But I did meet a great friend that morning. We decided playgroups weren’t for us. Too much pressure, too many germs.
But a couple of years later, a little pregnant and a lot tired with my almost two-year-old raring to go, I gave it another shot. Things do happen in their own time. Like learning to share. Which we’re still working on.
Each week is an adventure. There’s almost always drama, of the pushing and grabbing variety. And we wouldn’t miss it. It’s become a sort of weekly check-in. Time spent seeing a little of ourselves in each other. Expanding our theories and thoughts and dreams. Oh yeah and the kids get to play too.