Okay, I don’t know if it’s just me, but for some reason attending a baby group has the power to transport me back in time, making me feel as though I’m five years old again, clutching my book bag tightly ( remember those?!) as I walk into a classroom full of children I don’t know. It seriously does feel like the first day of school and at times I find the whole concept so stressful, I start to wonder why I put myself through the ordeal on a bi-weekly basis.
Its true, getting out of the house even just for an hour and having excuse to put make-up on can do wonders for my mood and well-being. There’s also no doubt that Samuel, my 22-month-old, thoroughly enjoys running around and playing with whatever toys-with-wheels he can get his hands on, but when it comes to actually communicating with the other adults in the group, I suddenly find myself completely socially inept and awkward. Why is that?
The entire point of these things, especially before your little one is old enough to actually engage in what’s going on, is to get out and meet other mums. Friendly mums, who just like you are struggling with the same daily challenges- hastily wiping snot and crumbs from their leggings before anyone can notice and trying to remember to brush their hair at least twice a week (or is that just me?). I’m not denying that I’ve met some lovely women at these groups and had some very pleasant conversations with them, but the dialogue never seems to go beyond the standard “Which one’s yours?”, “How old is he?” discussions.
Perhaps I’m feeling biased today. I cant deny that I get a kick out of watching Samuel having such a good time and would never stop attending the groups for this reason, however this morning I had a classic first-time-at-group experience that I feel I want to share…
I’d decided to try something new. I’d been taking Samuel to a structured toddler music group and he absolutely hated it. In his opinion, there was no need to be wasting his time singing and doing actions when he could run around the room and pull out as many toy boxes as he could find and un-stick all of the “happy mums with their happy children” displays from the walls. At one point, he even ran to the door and started whining loudly at me to please let him leave this horrific ordeal in the middle of a quiet moment, meaning we had to stand by the exit for the entire “goodbye song” with everyone staring at us from their neat crossed-legged little circle on the floor as they awkwardly chorused “goodbye Samuel..we hope to see you soon”. After that I decided that toddler music wasn’t for him, and he probably isn’t going to be the next Beethoven, so I did a little bit of research and found that there was a free-play group on a Friday morning, much more to his taste.
Getting Samuel dressed for the event proved tricky. When I told him we needed to get ready so we could go out, he promptly ran to the front door and began banging impatiently, thinking we were going to leave at that very moment. I calmly pointed out that we were still in our (batman) pyjamas and we couldn’t go out in public like that. His response to this issue was to pull his pyjama top off and start dropping his trousers, believing a nappy to be much more suitable attire for the outside world. When we finally got upstairs, putting clothes on took about four times the length that it should have, with Samuel running round me in circles, his arms not in his sleeves which were flapping around his head as he moved- something he found very amusing.
After wrestling and battling with him and chasing him around the landing to brush his teeth, we finally managed to make ourselves presentable and get into the car, making the quick trip over to our local children’s centre which went fairly smoothly ( save for a small battle over the last parking space in the car park, which I won by driving maybe a little bit too aggressively into the space).
Arriving into the room full of toddlers and their parents, I instantly noticed three things:
- Everyone was at least ten years older than me, a norm for these situations.
- Everyone was sitting in pre-established cliques and seemed to be the best of friends already.
- The woman who’s parking space I essentially stole was there with her three year old daughter. And yes, she did recognise me.
Luckily for me, Samuel spotted a table full of vehicles in the corner and made his way over confidently, myself sheepishly in pursuit. We played on our own for about twenty minutes before the lady who runs the group came over to suggest we try going outside in the garden, where there were diggers and dumper trucks available for the taking.
Obliging, I carried Samuel down a surprisingly long and steep staircase considering the building was designed for toddlers and made our way outside. The woman in charge ran after me, informing me that there were wellies for the children by the door back inside. Not wanting to make the steep climb back into the room ( it was an embarrassing amount of effort to get down, even for someone who’s eight months pregnant), I babbled something about him being fine in the shoes he had on. She glanced down at his flimsy, canvas shoes from Clarks and laughed awkwardly, giving me an odd look and then going back inside. My smile quickly faded when I turned round and saw that the garden was literally a bog. I mean, there was mud and water everywhere, the ground was sodden and there were puddles someone Samuel’s age could easily lose a foot in. Another amazingly off-beat faux-pas from me! Still, Samuel seemed to enjoy splashing through the mud-water and spraying dirt everywhere, so not all was lost.
Despite my failings, I will be going back next Friday. Is it simply an excuse to get out of the house or am I really that selfless that I’ll put myself through it again so Samuel can have a nice time? It’s hard to say. One thing I do know for sure though, is that if this is the end result, our attendance is more than worthwhile:
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