I began attending a mothers’ group when my son was three weeks old. The mothers’ group was really for me. I would spend two hours sitting on the carpet surrounded by a group of other mothers (and the occasional father) alternately feeding and rocking their babies while they chatted.
The woman who ran the group circulated, answering questions. To the outside observer this group would have looked a lot
like purgatory. Periodically several of the babies would launch into screaming contests. One week the room was packed, and as I looked around at least three babies in succession puked up long strings of gluey milk. I couldn’t help laughing internally, imagining my reaction pre-baby if I had been informed that this was to be an eagerly anticipated social event.
In the beginning, my son slept peacefully through all the screaming and the din of conversation. Once he could hold his head up well, I put him on his stomach on a blanket and he watched the action around him with great interest. The two hours of people watching left him exhausted and he had a good nap when we got home. This got me thinking about giving him other such opportunities.
When my son became mobile, I had to give up this group. I had been in denial as I watched his rapid progress from lunging to scooting to finally crawling at 5 months and a week and had not done any baby proofing, so I was relieved to have a place to take him to play. Fortunately, a group of mothers had broken off from the mother’s group and formed a playgroup for older babies. My son loved this group even more: He squawked with delight and hurtled over to the other babies, hands outstretched, ready to grab faces, hair, whatever he could get. It was a little embarrassing at first, but eventually he calmed down and the other babies got more rambunctious, which evened things out.
My son needed more of this, I thought, and I considered approaching other parents about setting up a play date. The problem was that I was making slow progress with baby proofing and from the sound of it I wasn’t the only one. As I chased my son around our carpeted upstairs, intercepting him when he decided to gnaw on the futon frame or pull
books off the bookshelves, I became desperate for a solution.
The solution was: more playgroups! I found a non-profit center nearby that sponsored two playgroups a week for an hour and a half each. Here was not only a safe place, but, unlike my other group, we didn’t have to bring our own toys. There were also story/play times at local libraries. Even in the padded, outlet-free, furniture-free room I imagined as my son’s ideal play space, he wouldn’t have had the variety of people and toys that were available at these groups and it
was good for both of us to get a change of scenery and to socialize.
Not that I needed another excuse to put off my baby proofing ...
J LeBlanc is a former high school teacher who resides in Lebanon, N.H. She is currently taking a break from teaching to stay home with her 8-month-old son.
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