We all know the benefits of attending playgroup. Your kids get to partake in new and interesting activities they wouldn't usually do, while you get out of the house and have some much needed socialisation. A cup of tea with some other parents and grandparents can be just what you need. Meanwhile, your kids get to practice sharing and interacting with other children of similar ages.
Sounds perfect, right?
I wish I could say that my time at playgroup was great. I'd love to tell you a positive story about meeting a new support group and finding lifelong friends. But, that wouldn't be the truth. So instead, I'm going to be honest with you and give you a run down of what I have noticed at the various playgroups I've attended over the last few years.
I had high hopes for playgroup, it seemed like it had lots of potential. But, as reality would have it, playgroup wasn't quite the wondrous place it seemed. Here's why:
Too many germs
The frequency of colds and tummy bugs will increase as soon as you place your children in a group with many others. Some of these children will have candlesticks sprouting down from their noses, they may lick the toy trains and play food. Some may have even spent the day before at home with gastro, but they seem fine today, so here they are!
It's one thing to build a healthy immune system, but it's another thing altogether to willingly throw your child into a human sess pool of bacteria. Often in the wintertime, it feels a lot more like the latter.
"Getting to know you" chats
Sometimes, the adult conversations you have at playgroup can feel so forced and monotonous that you wish you'd just stayed home and not bothered. Maybe you'll be lucky and find an amazing bunch of women you can relate to... Unfortunately, it's not all like the movies though. Often you'll find a bunch of mothers that you just do not click with, no matter how you try. Crickets will sound and a tumbleweed might roll by.
Other times, you'll find yourself interrogated about your hobbies, your family situation, even what you're cooking for dinner. Who even knows that at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning?! When you notice the screaming toddler who doesn't want to share the one and only rag doll is actually your child, you'll almost be grateful to be dragged away from the awkwardness of the adult setting anyway. Ah, a perfect excuse to escape. I mean, to give my child some valuable tips on sharing...
Playing mama to all of the children
Welcome to playgroup, I hope you like pushing other people's kids on swings! Don't get me wrong, I like children. They're great value. But I don't work in childcare nor am I a volunteer at playgroup, it's not up to me to mother all the children.
Despite that, the amount of times I've felt it necessary to give in and help someone else's child because of their damn puppy dog eyes is immeasurable. I fall for it. Every. Single. Time. My own child will finish up their turn on the swing and the next child will climb on, looking up at me hopefully. I do a quick scan around the area but their parent isn't in sight. Off enjoying a relaxing cuppa, I guess. Lucky them!
So of course I push the little tike on that swing until they've had their fill. But in doing this, I'm unable to help my own toddler who wants to climb on the trampoline, an old fashioned thing with no safety netting or mats, just bare metal poles and exposed springs. She whines at my feet while she waits. She's learning patience, that's nice. And I'm helping another mum who obviously needs a little minute to herself. That's nice too... but I'm concerned - where's the parental supervision?
It's one thing to push a child on the swing, but I can't exactly discipline them as well, can I? Because there's kids throwing sand that's landing in eyes, and no one's here to tell them no. There are other kids riding down hills on tricycles, almost taking out toddling babes while they're at it. And don't get me started with the kids climbing up the slide when a smaller child is trying to go down!
Simple, basic rules and common sense seem to be lacking, as is the mantra to be mindful of others. You don't need to be a helicopter mum to keep an eye on your own children!
So while I love that the kids get to do exciting new crafts and activities at playgroup, I'd rather take the time to set it up myself than deal with all the baggage that comes along with it. I'll choose a nice cup of tea at home with a friend while our kids enjoy some play and craft time over playgroup any day.