Playgroup, Revisited

Warning:  To my blog readers who have small children running amok, destroying your house with kitchen utensils and scaring the pets, you might want to skip this post.  You might not like me anymore after reading about my day.  Remember, I warned you.

Back when I was a new mommy, glowing with new-found motherhood, raging hormones, and lack of sleep, I joined a playgroup.  I said that it was for my little guy to find new friends, learn to share, and develop wonderful social skills. 

I lied.

Playgroup was really for me.

I mean, how social can an 8 week-old baby really be?  Sure, babies smile and all that.  Eventually they even start to grab hair and steal toys from their rivals playmates, which we interpret as interacting.  But when they are very small, there really isn’t any playing in a playgroup.

When you have extracted yourself from your former life as a worker bee/wife/friend and whatever else you did before baby (because you can’t remember) you need to find others like you.  Other grown-ups who can appreciate the fact that you slept for a whole four hours straight or actually remembered to brush your teeth.

We would meet at parks on a weekly basis when the weather was good, and during bad weather we took turns hosting the group in our homes.  It was a LOT of work, and we were all tending to our kids constantly it seemed.  Someone always needed a diaper, a snack, a nose wiped, or just had to cry.  Loudly.

I was lucky enough to find two of my most favorite lifetime friends in this group.  Yeah, they have great kids too….but hey, it was my playgroup to start with.  And yesterday one of those friends invited us over for lunch and swimming.

It was heaven.

You see, once they get to be a certain age you just don’t really have to DO ANYTHING for them.  Yesterday was like fast-forwarding an old movie reel to remember these same kids, us same moms, 16 years earlier in the same situation.

Pizza lunch and swimming?  For a playgroup meeting back in the day that would have been a mountain of work.  Cutting up pizza, pouring sippy cups, cleaning up spills, taking potty/diaper breaks, applying sunscreen, fixing boo-boos, applying more sunscreen, putting on water wings, “helping” them swim…..well, you get it.

Pizza lunch and swimming now? 

  • Set pizza boxes on counter next to paper plates. 
  • Pull a lounge chair up next to the pool. 
  • Start gabbing.  Gab for hours and hours, about puberty and driver’s permits, about college costs and scout camp, vacations and jobs.  Real, grown-up talk with one of my favorite friends.

And the kids?  They took care of their lunch, helped themselves to drinks, made their own snow cones, applied their sunscreen, swam, played a board game, talked, and had fun.  The moms hardly had to lift a finger.

It was the best playgroup I’ve been to in years.

Driving Miss Crazy

little tikes cozy coupeThere are so many milestones in childhood that come and go, usually with great fanfare (at least when it’s YOUR kid).  First smile, first steps, first time on a bike, first day at school… these are all met with smiles, video cameras, phone calls to Grandma and notations in the baby book.

We celebrate each new step towards independence too.  That first day at school starts a whole string of “firsts” that slowly push them out into the world without 24/7 supervision.  I enjoyed each of these in their own time, snapping pictures and crossing them off my mental mommy list.

And then he got his learner’s permit.

At first this sounded like wonderful mother/son bonding.  We’ll be in the car for 50 hours of practice time!  We can laugh and talk, just like when he was younger!

And then we went out for the first time.

My perceptions of how close the curb is, how close we are to cars parked on the side of the road and how closely we are passing the cars in the oncoming lanes are VERY different when I am the passenger and my son is driving.  I try to remain calm (“Honey, watch for that stop sign ahead.”) when on the inside I am not (“STOP!  THE LIGHT IS RED!  WATCH OUT FOR THE CAT!”).  Being the control freak that I am, I find myself looking for something to do with my hands, since I can’t grab the wheel or use the turn signals.  I try to keep them folded in my lap, but my inner urge to survive kicks in and I have to grab the door panel.

At times, this has been before we have even left the driveway.

There are so many things about driving that become second nature after a few years.  I can drive anywhere in town that I need to go while at the same time memorizing my grocery list and listening to talk radio.  I don’t have to think about the rules at a four-way stop or that I need to yield to oncoming traffic when making a left turn on green.  I just do it.  Now I have to think about the rules, and the whole outing becomes a complete recitation of the DMV Driver’s Handbook.

This isn’t the mother/son chatting I was envisioning.

There are quiet moments while we are out, when I am sure my son is breathing a sigh of relief (She finally shut up!).  These are times when we are on a long stretch of road, with no stop signs, lane changes or crosswalks.  Even then, I think there should be something I could point out (“The bumps in the middle of the road are called Botts’ Dots.” or “Did you know it would take us 11 hours to drive to Vegas?”).

We still have many hours to practice before the final exam for his license.  My son?  He’s doing great with the driving.

It’s his mother who needs some more practice.