Take heed. Playgroups are the breeding grounds of competition and envy.
My wife and I decided to take Missy to a playgroup, without realizing that playgroups are a grossly misrepresented activity. To me, “playgroup” brought up visions of a happy place, where mother’s (and sometimes father’s) sit around singing and clapping while angelic children twirl and dance. The reality is decidedly different. It appears that babies have individual personalities and, shockingly, different development levels: Some were crawling, some kind of walking, some neither and some both.
The problem first time parents have, is that you can easily judge your child’s development, or lack there of, by other kids around you. Now let me firstly say that I now know this is rubbish. Children do their thing in their own time, and the stress of “my child is behind” or even “my child is ahead”, is wasted energy.
The problem actually lay with me. You see, I tend to obsess with things. Things like Missy’s head. Due to a 38-hour labour, our darling baby was born with a slightly odd shaped head. The doctor assured us, her ‘nut’ would come right. But as it didn’t fix itself in 2 days, I obsessed.
Fueling this obsession were friends of ours who had twins – these guys had perfectly shaped heads, sounds weird saying that, but they truly were terrific. After Missy’s head did finally “come good” I moved to her feet. They looked quite small to me, and didn’t seem to be growing proportionately to the rest of her.
My wife would look on, shaking her head as I measured them every day to see how they were progressing – I had visions of an 18 year old with baby size feet. Then, of course, they came good…
So for me, the playgroup was a minefield of comparison and obsession. Missy clearly is the most intelligent and advanced child ever born, that’s a given, but it seemed that when I took her to these happy play sessions, she forgot all the stuff she would gladly do at home. Suddenly soap bubbles were toxic, upside down time was met with crying not laughing and doing any of the organized activities was verboten!
So as children around me played, walked, crawled, and laughed, I would worry that the other parents were thinking my child was an antisocial misfit.
I would go around and assure all the other mothers that Missy was not normally like this, and at home, she loved trying to catch bubbles. I would force a smile, and she would attach herself to me like a limpet.
Looking back, I suspect that the other parents were in a similar position, and most new parents to varying degrees, freak out about their child’s development. But at the time I lived in fear of the playgroup, like I had to prove my daughter was just as capable as the rest of the class.
Then, of course, she came good.