Thursday, July 31, 2008

so not child's play

Today we went to playgroup .. again. That sounds such a simple sentence, a straightforward proposition, even fun if you're into that kind of thing. For me, though, it's kind of like saying "today I went to have all my eyelashes pulled out one at a time''. Only today there were more tears.

I'm not sure why this is. I first went to this playgroup about two years ago, although I didn't really enjoy it then and didn't go back for some time. But this year we started out positive, I thought if I just kept going back every single week with Freya she would warm up. She would learn to love it. She would form friendships and feel comfortable and smile and laugh and do all the things children are supposed to do when they are in a group that does nothing except play. Playing. In a group. Sounds simple enough.

But Freya has not really done any of these things. Admittedly, she has smiled. A few times. And once she sang along with all the songs, and played with a couple of the other children. But mostly she clings to me, or sits grumpily on my lap glaring at everyone, or hiding her face, or crying. When she finally stands up it's only to demand that I pick her up so she can do ''ring a rosy'', which I can tell you is NO FUN when you are carrying a three-year-old and trying to ''all fall down'' and ''all jump up'' without seriously injuring yourself.

Last term we didn't go to playgroup at all. I was over it. Why should I put myself through it when the person I'm doing it for appears to be miserable the entire time we're there? I rationalised. We had fun. We played. Sometimes she watched telly, me being the irresponsible mother that I am. And guess what? I got the floor clean. It made me feel better. Freya appeared to have no ill effects. I didn't cry. She didn't cry. We just enjoyed each other's company.

Maybe this lulled me into a false sense of security. Freya is a happy, well-adjusted child, I told myself. She started enjoying other kids' company, so I thought maybe we could give playgroup another shot. It would be good for her, I reasoned, and everyone else appeared to agree with me (including the large, frightening entity known as SOCIETY, for whom nothing is ever good enough but which has generally decreed it is particularly not good for a three-and-a-half-year-old to have no social interaction with children of their own age). I think mostly society is made up of childcare centre operators and mothers who work full-time, but that's just my opinion. And it invariably falters when faced with the opinion of SOCIETY.

I would love to go to playgroup and be able to chat sociably with the other mothers, to drink herbal tea and compare notes on this crazy thing known as motherhood. I don't know about anyone else, but I need help with it. I think there is no other job in the world that so clearly requires an occupational health and safety overhaul. And the only people qualified to do that are those in the same position.

But it's a closed shop, this playgroup. You get the feeling all that bonding and knitting and tea-drinking and singing are reserved only for those who TRULY belong. And the child-rearing thing comes as naturally as breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Raise perfect children. Never be ruffled. Always know innately what the best thing is to do.

I realise these are all my own fears and uncertainties and that they probably affect the way I relate to these people, which in turn affects the way they see me. I get that. But I can't shake the feeling, and I can't, no matter what I do, make Freya enjoy herself when she is there. Today she hid her face almost the entire time, wouldn't sing or play or even walk. And I was in tears before the morning tea was even served. We went home. And at home the sun was shining so we had a picnic and Freya played on the swings and the trampoline and - god forbid - watched telly. I went from feeling hopeless to feeling okay. And I'm so tired of all this playgroup drama I can't tell you. Except I just did. So thanks for listening.

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