I relaxed my boycott on toddler groups yesterday. Its not that I was avoiding them for any high minded reason, just purely because I had my fill of the pre school social scene. However, once again I have a toddler in the house and he deserved a chance to give it a try. After a few minutes there, I realised I was finally the mother of the child who got stuck in, played with the toys and simply enjoyed himself. I have previously been the mother of the child who ran insanely around the church hall like a nutter, the mother of the child who sat on my knee resolutely ignoring all the toddler toys around him and the mother of the child who prompted a “kind” observer to irritatingly say “Your son is trying to put play-doh in his eyes. I just thought you’d like to know.”
As my youngest joyfully lay back in the ball pool, I looked around at the other mothers. There were two on the couch having a chat not really worth eavesdropping.
“And my friend just told me she is pregnant! She’s so pleased!”
And another at a table with two small kids. She was giving off those smiley, lonely, desperate vibes, guaranteeing the couch pair was not going to include her. Ignoring all the signs, in she waded, asking
“Is your sons top from Tesco?”
The couch mother cautiously nodded.
“My tiny girl has one like it in pink! It’s so cute!”
The pair skilfully moved their eyes away from her, and kept chatting in low tones.
The lonely mum took a few minutes to recover and moved on to me.
“What age?” she said, gesturing to my boy, smiling as if she thought he was adorable. Which, I then remembered, is how mothers look at other peoples kids in toddler groups. Now that I am hardened by school and soccer and Fitzone, other people’s kids are generally the enemy in my book. Oh god, I thought, I’m going to have to start smiling at them again. The little ones at least.
When I was in my thirties, with a double buggy and an obsession with Boots baby aisle, I was a toddler group junkie. No one was going to say my boys were under stimulated. I even attended an Irish speaking group for a while, hoping, I suppose, that someone would lapse in to English every now and again. But they were die hard gaeilgeoirs and never did. I had one conversation (one sided) where a woman wearing what could only be described as a “guna” told me that she and her husband locked their bedroom door every night. Or she could have said they held their bedroom door open with a clay box? I wasn’t sure but nodded knowingly anyway.
In the end I had an epiphany. Walking out of a group where everyone knew everyone except me and I was offered that “moving away” smile too many times I realised I didn’t have to do it anymore. Pushing the double buggy against the wind we went home, put the telly on and gave in to The Den. Jakers, Pickme and Scooby Doo. Better than any Fisher Price tool bench.
But this fourth baby has me back in the zone. Now however, instead of magnanimously giving the sought after plastic hammer to someone else bawling child, I’m going to keep it and give it to my own smiling one.