By: Amber Leventry
I don’t like children’s playgroups. Not totally true: I like the fact that they are free and get me out of the house, preventing me from going batshit crazy while home with my 20 month old twin boys. I also like the part that allows my boys to do art projects with glue, because until my boys can restrain themselves from throwing food, that isn’t happening at home.
It’s not the actual communal event in itself I don’t like, but the people at these playgroups who send me into states of being annoyed or feeling defensive. I’ll put it right out there: Being a parent doesn’t make me love all parents. Just like being gay doesn’t mean I know or even like all other gay people. Some are assholes. And perhaps I just painted myself into a corner with a sign hanging over my head reading the same thing.
First of all, if your adult to child ratio is anything more than 1:1, I will judge you. Having Grandma and/or Grandpa along for playtime seems like a good waste of time you could be doing something else. And they take up the limited room my kid has to run around. Watching many adults stand around taking pictures of one child makes me very angry as I struggle to keep two toddlers from exiting the building. Or playing with the one electrical cord not secured to a wall or the floor.
The mom who pays too much attention to her kid is the worst. The way she talks too loud in her perfect, polite, monotone mommy voice makes me want to give her two choices: shush or go home. This mom is always with one kid and only one kid, though she may be pregnant and in for a real shock when she has to share that mommy voice with two kids. As much as this mom hovers over her kid, she never seems to notice when her child does anything wrong. Yet, the second my kid knocks over her kid’s tower of blocks, I get the stink-eye as her kid throws a tantrum while she tries to over-explain why my kid didn’t mean to knock over the tower. No, no. He meant it. And he’ll do it again.
Other moms interact with their children less. But they then have time to look at me for too long when I don’t jump right up and intervene after one or both of my boys do the following: falls; cries; eats food he found on the floor; takes a toy from another child; does something other than bite or cause actual physical harm to his brother. I absolutely teach my three children right and wrong—I have a four year old daughter too—but my partner and I are big believers in giving our kids the ability to figure stuff out on their own. From social interactions to natural consequences, we don’t fix their problems without them asking for some help, scoop them up after each fall, or stop them from eating free food.
The mom or care provider who spends all of her time on her phone or deep in conversation with another mom at the playgroup drives me nuts. It becomes unspoken that I and all of the other moms not doing the same thing must become the disciplinarians. We keep her kid from shoving other kids off of tricycles and keep them from banging on windows and babies.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the facilitators of these groups. The woman who ends a playgroup early because she has a hair appointment makes me want to scream all of the reasons why I am not leaving until the actual end time rolls around. The number one reason is that it took me 25 minutes to get two toddlers geared up, out of the house, and into their car seats. This reason is followed closely by the work and time to get them out of their car seats and across an icy parking lot while holding my coffee cup by my teeth.
The man who leads the weekly music time makes me sad. Just sad. We’ll call him Jammin’ Jim. Jammin’ Jim dresses up as a pirate and sings self-composed pirate themed songs. The songs are made up of not funny jokes and puns that only parents understand. He is at least 45 and smells of polyester and unfulfilled dreams. I can’t make eye contact with him. I don’t laugh at his jokes. And I can’t make the connection to his song he dubbed a “Ramones inspired tune” to an actual Ramones song. Instead of playing to an empty bar at an open mic night, he is playing to my twin boys. One of whom couldn’t be closer to me because he is terrified of the fake parrot on Jammin’ Jim’s shoulder.
Maybe I haven’t found the right playgroup or music time. Maybe I need to find my playgroup soulmate. Or maybe I am just a jaded, sleep-deprived mom of three who wishes a playgroup existed in the afternoon, after nap, and during happy hour at a place that serves alcohol.
But until I find one or all of these things, I will continue to go to my community playgroups, because they get me out of the house. There may also happen to be a drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. And even helicopter mom and Jammin’ Jim are worth tolerating for an hour of fresh coffee while my boys destroy someone else’s space.
Photo Credit: Popofatticus