The Quest for the Perfect Playgroup: Paranoia Activity

OK, let me start off by saying that I never in a million years thought that I would be writing a blog about playgroups, not the 2011 version of me. The 2011 version of me would roll her eyes and say to herself, or out loud,

“Playgroups are ridiculous. Those are for type A mom’s who want to over schedule their kids and plan every second of their day. If I’m ever a mom, I’m going to be cool and never try to plan my child’s day like that.”

Then 2012 happened. Do you kind of see where these blogs are going? I lay this carefully worked out plan in my head about the way I think child rearing goes and then once I’m in the middle of it that feeble plan crashes down around my feet. I hope you seasoned parents out there are laughing.

So, 2012 happened and there I was in the middle of Underhill during the winter coming darn close to hacking my way through bathroom doors with an axe and chasing Henry through hedge mazes. I totally got the idea of playgroups! Ohhhhh, I get it now! I see! A playgroup is so that the mom/dad doesn’t go insane from isolation and the stay-at-home child has the benefit of interacting with other children. Ohhhhh, it’s actually a really good thing for crazy pants stay-at-home parents like me. I get it.

Before I knew it, I was on findandgoseek.net (my personal parenting go to) and located one a drive-able distance from the house. Henry was around ten weeks old at the time and I was excited to see what it was like to really get a chance to sit and talk with a bunch of people mid-day. Remember, I went from working a job for seven years where I pretty much got to hang out with my friends all day, to overnight being in what felt like complete isolation. The only saviors were my landlords who lived next door and who would come over to visit. Thank you George and Catherine!

So I drive Andy into Burlington so that I can have the car for the day and head over to the playgroup. The woman who I had been in contact about going met me at the door and was so kind and pleasant. But when I walked in the door, it felt like high school again. Anyone who is friends with me on social media might have read in my posts about this feeling.

Honesty Alert: I find other mothers EXTREMELY intimidating. It’s getting better as I’ve interacted with them for over two years now, but it still sits with me. Every other mother seems to be doing a better job at this thing than I am. They always appear more relaxed or more organized. Even though I’m smiling, it’s sheer terror on the inside.

I’ll admit, too, that I didn’t heed the advice I was given as a child and judged every single one of those “mom books” by her cover. I saw a sea of fashion scarves sans baby puke, tall Fry boots without crayon marks and children with really expensive winter apparel. I instantly felt that I, in my worn winter hat, old Sorell boots and stained jeans, was out of place. I tried to tell myself that it was just me being incredibly immature and that it would be fine. So in I went.

The whole time I sat with Henry, him sleeping, me sweating, I was nervous about starting conversations. What do you talk to other women about when the only thing you have in common with them is the fact that you both have kids? Do you talk about your kids when the last thing they want to probably talk about is their kids? It was brutal. Most of the moms broke off into their own little circle conversations and I ended up sitting by myself most of the time. It just wasn’t the way I pictured things going at all. (You should play a drinking game with these blogs. Every time something I pictured is different than it actually is take a drink. I can guarantee alcohol poisoning when this is said and done.)

I was done with playgroups. They didn’t work. They were exactly for those moms that I thought they were for, type A’s who love to judge us type B’s. Get that glass ready, you’ll be taking a drink before the end of these next paragraphs.

Henry got older and dropped naps down to one a day and even though I had had a pretty scary experience with my first playgroup, the idea of going to another one wasn’t completely out of my head. Maybe I had unfairly wrote them off before giving them a fair shake. As if by answer to some unsaid prayer, I got an invite to a playgroup that one of my roller derby (yes, I used to play and no, I wasn’t very good) friends was hosting. A playgroup with people I already knew? Maybe this would be the tipping point. So I drove Andy into B-town and took off for my friend’s house.

Can you guess what happened when I got there? Do you have your glass ready? Theory proved wrong again! I and Henry had a wonderful time! I got a chance to talk and laugh. Henry played with new toys and saw new faces. And guess what? Shocker of the century, my friends were snappy dressers and obviously not judging ice queen mothers. We even talked about how hard it can be breaking into new playgroups and that they aren’t, like our kids hats, one size fits all.

It was a sad day when I realized that the drive was a little too hard with us still living in Underhill and we had to cancel going. But what my friend did was teach me that interacting with other mothers is as wonderful as you make it to be. Sure, the “mommy wars” are alive and well, but that doesn’t mean that we have to put our bayonets on our diaper bags and join the fray. You can dress like a homeless person and still connect with people who take pride in their appearance. But remember, there are other fish in the sea and if you aren’t finding any connections, it’s okay to pull up anchor and try a new pond.

We moved to Shelburne and because of my wonderful friend, I was able to have the courage to try the playgroup right next to our apartment. Surprise, surprise, it has been excellent. I feel like I can connect with several moms there and have seen my little stay-at-home son actually start interacting with other kids. I still wear my stained jeans and my old worn out snow hats because that’s me and they still look amazing and put together because that’s them. But both of our kids are picking their noses and wiping it on our sleeves, so I feel there’s room for a relationship there.

Thank you so much to my derby friends with kids who have always shown that you can still let your freak flag fly and be a great mom!


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