Ah, playgroup – you either love them or loathe them. I’ve been to my fair share. Some are fab, some are excruciating. I recently went to a new one in my local area and it got me thinking about how there’s always some striking similarities.
Here’s my anatomy of a playgroup.
The Hoverer – You can tell she is a hoverer because her children’s clothes are really, really clean. She is always one step behind them, often holding a wipe, and always grimacing. It’s unnatural for children to look that put together and you just want to tell her it’s ok not to strive for perfection. Cut yourself some slack.
The Over Sharer – Really? You’re boobs leaked last night and your child ate three peas and four carrot sticks for lunch yesterday. I’m sorry, but I only just met you and frankly, I don’t need to know all that this early in our friendship.
The Stickler – She’s the one who knows the inner workings of the playgroup. She has designated herself the rule enforcer and she’s not afraid to tell you if you’re breaking one. Does she even have children in the playgroup? Oh yes, there’s one… ramming his truck into another child’s leg.
The Free Spirit – This Mum is so free and easy she doesn’t even need to watch her child, who coincidently is with The Stickler’s child tormenting two other kids over by the swing set. She comes to playgroup to relax (and let the other parents look after her child). She never lifts a finger, unless of course it’s to bring a biscuit someone else has contributed to morning tea.
The Welcomer – If she could, she’d wait in the car park and run alongside the car to ensure she’s the first to say hello. She is so nice, almost too nice. You master the wave and dodge, to steal some time so you can get a coffee fix and find your inner “happy mummy” before facing the barrage of saccharine.
The Pushy Nanna – Fuck you lady, wait your turn. I know your grand child is everything, but so are all the other kids at playgroup. Back off and let everyone have a turn.
The Silent One – You try and get eye contact. You smile. You make small talk. You can’t tell if she is shy or she really has no interest in talking to you. Each week you try again. It becomes a challenge. Then you give up as you risk becoming a stalker, but you wonder what’s wrong with you.
The Snake – To your face she’s really lovely, but once you turn your back she’s ramming a pair of craft scissors into your back. You know the kind, she’s the one who organises extracurricular playgroup activities with the other mums and somehow always forgets to ask you along. Power trips are her past time and you’re her latest pawn. Never to worry, she’s quite a bore anyway.
The Loud Talker – She has a lot to say and wants everyone to hear it, so to make extra sure everyone does, she talks very loudly. Even attempts to drown her out, by turning up the nursery rhymes on the portable DVD recorder, fail. She doesn’t notice anyway, because she really loves the sound of her own voice, which is lucky because it’s all anyone can hear.
The Top Dog – You know her, she’s the coolest looking chick in the room. She always has a couple of other Mums hanging around with her, avoiding eye contact with everyone else. She was the popular one at school and has decided to carry that theme of schoolyard hierarchy into her adult life. You smile at her, she turns her head. And if you do talk, she never remembers your name. You secretly hope one of her kids vomits on her Pandora charm bracelet.
The Beacon – There’s always one and if you’re lucky there’s more than one. The person who you click with straight away, like a shining light in the fog. You’re kids play well together. They are kind, fun, inclusive, interesting and easy to be with. You trust each other, you forge friendships. They make playgroup a place you want to keep coming back to.
Playgroup helps break the monotony of the day and provides a place for parents to bond and for kids to socialise. But you need to find your beacons or it can be a very lonely place. Next time you’re at playgroup, or your local playground, look out for the new Mums as you never know, you could make a new friend for life. Be a beacon, not a bitch.
(For the record, I think I may be a mixture of an Over Sharer and a Loud Talker!)
Have you had a good or bad playgroup experience?