Thursday, December 01, 2005

For Cathy

I was reading Cathy's blog, and it triggered some memories that I thought I’d share with you. Dear Cathy wrote about a few things, but she mentioned that many people are telling her to join a playgroup with her kids, and she’s sad that she can’t find one.

Oh…. I remember playgroup days! They were fun. Well. Kinda. I mean… I’m glad we had a playgroup. I met some people with kids the same age as mine. I got out of the house once a week. And we were practically guaranteed invitations to at least 5 birthday parties each year. (Believe me - that was important to me 15 years ago!) The families were generally nice. Really, I loved them at the time, and I still like them now. But it wasn’t all kicks and giggles. It certainly wasn’t a stress-free, adult afternoon. So this blog entry is for Cathy, and I hope she will look past the sprinkling of bitchiness here and still see the humor in it.

When DS was almost 3 and DD was just 4 months old, we were invited to start a playgroup. We began with 5 families.

There was the LLBean family. Real woodsy. “Natural” toys. Healthy snacks. Nobody ate much there. Soy wasn’t a part of my taste experience yet. And believe me, it didn’t matter if the blocks were wooden or plastic. They still hurt when one kid cracked another kid over the head with one. Her daughter would routinely punch my son. That natural food stuff must have made her aggressive.

There was the Excruciatingly Neat family. Never a speck of dust. Nothing out of place. Even the basement was spotless. Games and toys neatly arranged in alphabetical order. They weren’t allowed to have magnets or artwork on the refrigerator. Too messy.

There was the Genius family. Of course, they spawned the genius child, who had all of the genius games (my kids stared at them in confusion) and each week Mom would pull out his coloring pages and cry “Look, he colors just like a 12 year old!” Of course, genius child never spoke. And now as a young adult he walks with no arm movement. Never swings his arms. I watch him all the time. I must be obsessed with him. How could you have colored like that if you can’t swing your arms, I want to ask.

We had the Gourmet family. This mom would make snacks that would blow us away. Fabulous food for the adults. Charming, creative, tasty, colorful snacks for the kids – usually all seasonal or holiday themed. I particularly remember her days of “Make your own Creation Snacks”. Not only was it tasty, it was amusing for the kids. Some days you just wanted to say, Look, what the hell is wrong with graham crackers?? Quit showing off!

Then there was me. My guess is that they call us the PeeBoy family. The first thing my DS did was pee in Genius boy’s new sand box. I thought he was potty trained….who knew? So my first playgroup day lasted about 15 minutes, when I scooped up DS and took him home for dry clothes. After apologizing profusely and offering to go get a shovel and clean out the offending sand.

Other families came and went (I won’t tell you about Smokestack family, Stripper-Mom family, 17 Cat family, Crazy Religious family, or any of the others, although they were pretty amusing), but for the core of the group, it was our original 5 families.

OK, so we used to get together each Monday, from 1 till about 3, and we rotated houses. Sure, there was some adult conversation, but it was almost all about kids, kids, kids. And then there were the inevitable arguments between the kids. Miiiiine! No, it’s Miiiiiine. I had it first! He broke my……..She won’t share the……..Can I have this to take home?

And then there’s the joy of hosting playgroup. When it was my week, Monday morning, cleaning my heart out. Picking the right snacks and juice. You know that LLBean family has allergy-prone kids, so no lactose, no peanuts, no wheat. And ExNt family has a daughter that won’t eat or drink certain colors. Loading up on lots of sippee cups. Hiding the cat. Toddler-proofing the house – again – because Genius boy can pick any lock.

Your guests arrive. Do you have the right toys? Will the kids be amused? (Can’t they just watch a movie today?) You have the same conversation you had last week.

Then comes the clean up. Cookies ground into the carpet. They flushed what down the toilet? Your kids’ rooms look like they’ve been bombed. Toys cover every surface, obscuring even more spilled food.

Then there were the playgroup politics. Is it an open door thing? I mean, how many families can your home accommodate? At one point we had like 8 or so families. It was nuts. But everyone wanted to be friendly and so you’d invite someone (what’s one more?). But then I’d invite someone, and so on and so on and before you knew it, it was playgroup hell!

Other politics: Do you invite all playgroup people to everything you ever do? Or do you just invite the ones you like? How about the older siblings? And the younger siblings?

It was exhausting.

Sometimes I ask myself why I did it. Or more importantly, would I do it again? Yes, I probably would. Of our original five, I’ve kept a close friendship with one family, and probably would have with a second family except for them moving far away. But maybe those friendships would have developed anyway. And as for the kids – well, they really don’t hang out together as teenagers. They don’t remember any of the playgroup days, either.

So Cathy, if you really want a playgroup, this is what you’ll be getting. Maybe you’ll decide to start one up, and if you do, have fun with it. Enjoy meeting new people. And don’t say I haven’t warned you. (Ok, I accidentally got too bitchy again.)

No comments:

Post a Comment