- A tub of baby food, in case the little prince decides to get fussy and refuse eating what fruit and crackers the morning tea organizers have on offer. Check.
- A bib or two, to cater for spillage and flying debris of mushy banana and bicky particles. Check.
- A spare change of clothes, or two. Three to be safe. ‘Coz Lord knows we’ll be needing them. Check.
- Wipes and nappies and butt- cream and nappy bags and a changing mat. Check.
- Ugly the Rabbit or Dodo the Dinosaur, or whoever happens to be favorite clingy buddy of the day, (in my son’s case, this could be one of Dad’s socks.) Check.
- A dribble/ spew/ hide- my- boob- while- feeding cloth. Check.
- A blanket for the capsule, or two if it’s cold. Check.
- The capsule, aka impossibly difficult contraption to harness your infant to a car seat. Check.
- Tula, ring- sling, or some kind of baby carrier for when he gets tired/ clingy. (Don’t worry, before I became a mum the words “Tula” “Boba” “Ergo” and “Mei Tei” meant nothing to me, either.) Check.
Note: This checklist serves the purpose of serving the complex needs of a single child. More than one and you’re going to need the strength of The Hulk and the luck of a frickin leprechaun.
On his first day at Playgroup, Little Shot had been given “the talk.” This was following his last playgroup episode at a different play center, which involved him screaming at another baby, almost running them over in a plastic truck, and stealing an older toddler’s cookie. Everyone can spot the “bully kid” from a mile away, and I hope, more than anything, that kid does not turn out to be my son.
Playgroups are gathering spots for overtired mothers to converse over coffees and show off their kids’ latest tricks. Everyone brings a healthy snack to share at morning tea time and the kidlets are let lose into the boxes of toys and blocks. The older ones are free to conquer the playground and sandpit and squish play dough between their little fingers to their hearts content. A few of them will still try to eat it, but I’ve been told it isn’t toxic. You’ll probably just get one shocker of a bluey- green nappy the next day.
My favorite part of playgroup, other than the strong coffee on tap, is watching the way the little ones interact with each other. For some of the smaller ones it’s as if they’ve never seen another baby before in their life. Some of them are startled and confused, others are cautious and curious. It’s really quite hilarious. But although they can act totally alien toward each other, it does seem to me that every small person is aware they are a small person, and they are also aware of other small persons. And I’m almost certain they have their own communication system among themselves.
I gotta say, I love this old- school, village- style communal maternal thing playgroups have got going on. Basically, everyone’s kids are everyone’s responsibility. If you see a three year old stuck up a tree, your son or not, you saw him, so you’re the one who’s climbing up there to help him down. If a little girl falls and grazes her knee in front of you and you happen to be first on the scene of the screaming victim, you pick her up and give her the hug and attention she needs. I like the sense of awareness and responsibility it gives you and the security I have knowing that my son is always in sight and being cared for.
It’s chaotic. But it’s the kind of chaos I can definitely live with. Between in depth conversations with other mums on heavy topics we’re whipping out or boobs to feed screaming babies, wiping snotty noses of our kids as they try to escape and breaking up fights over ‘who had which toy first.’ (“Sharing is caring!”) All the while we become almost ignorant to these weird happenings around us and are able to continue focusing on our ever so important discussions. Kind of like mothering on autopilot. It’s not to say though that we are in any way neglecting our kids, as that’s not the case at all! Because the instant anyone is hurt or in danger we somehow pick up on it like a freaky sixth sense and snap into Supermum mode, as if the whole world freezes for just a few seconds while we pick up the pieces and rectify the situation. And then of course we continue or discussions. Because as important as it is for our kids to experience being around others of their species and for them to enjoy messing up somebody else’s carpets and walls, it is important social time for mums, too. It’s a time where we can get real advice, get stressful feelings and thoughts out into the open around others who can relate, get a break from the clingy bubs who decide to cling to someone else for a change, and for some mums it really is the only “social time” they have.
At the end of the day our kids are all tired out. This is one of the greatest things about playgroup, as we know it hopefully means a short break while they nap in the car or when we get home.
Our tired little pumpkins are sent home with smiles, paint and glitter on their faces, their hair full of food and gloop. And seeing them so happy after a big day is just the coolest feeling ever. I know playgroup didn’t really seem like my cup of tea at first, but I love it. Maybe I’m changing. I do have family photos and children’s drawings and a sticker chart stuck all over my fridge with colorful, alphabet- shaped magnets, after all.
….Oh god….. I’m think I’m finally becoming a mum.