At first, playgroup seemed clique-y to me, sorority-like. We were all new moms, navigating a new social world while sleep-deprived and self-doubting. In the first playgroup I tried, some women actually told a friend of mine not to talk to a third woman, as if we were in 7th grade again. Then they discussed their concerns that a fourth woman had “upped the ante” by sending out an elaborately cute first-birthday-party invitation, with which they were apparently trying to compete. I found them incomprehensible. Fortunately, those women eventually withdrew into their own private playgroup and one of the moms who stuck around encouraged me to return to the newer, mellow playgroup.
It took me a long time to adjust to playground sociability. I’m not good at groups. But thank god I did return to playgroup.
For my non-parental readers: a playgroup is a group of parents who meet regularly (once a week, at 4pm at a local park, for my group) and then irregularly (at birthday parties, monthly “Mom’s Night Out,” and suchlike, for my group). It’s a support-network, maybe a substitute for when we all used to live in small neighborhoods full of parents who talked together. It’s the people we ask first when we need a plumber or a recipe.
And now I can’t imagine parenting without a playgroup. It’s not just because I often need a plumber or a recipe. It’s not only because some incredibly-organized women in my playgroup keep on arranging free tours of fire-stations and restaurant-kitchens for our kids. My playgroup has even simplified the 30 birthday parties we attend each year with a firm and actually-observed no-presents rule. My playgroup also has a now-long-standing tradition of bringing food to the houses of anyone with a newborn or a hospitalization, and this feels incredibly rewarding to me. But it’s more than just that feeling of community. It’s not even because playgroup friends keep leaving fabulous hand-me-down baby-supplies at my door.
Mostly, I think it is because playgroup keeps making me laugh. They’re the group who thinks Go the Fuck to Sleep is a brilliant book. They’re the group who, when I admit to shouting at Sophie in Target, then confess to their own outbursts, too. Recently, a playgroup friend posted on facebook: “Why did I think it was a good idea to go food-shopping in the afternoon with both kids? I want to shoot myself now.”
The responses poured in:
“And after school? Brutal. Sorry.”
“Holy shit, it’s the worst. As is trying to navigate the aisles with one of those double-seater cozy coupe carts.”
“How many aisle fights this time? Well I hope you at least grabbed a bottle of our newfound friend SG.”
“Omg, I’m totally pouring myself one right now! I almost get into a fight with someone because of those stupid carts every time I go to the store! I don’t know how I’m supposed to steer that thing, pay attention to my kids, and not hit someone at the same time. It’s the cart’s fault really.”
“Yeah, skip that, just head out for every meal.”
“Hey, ladies, what’s this SG you speak of?”
“Skinny Girl margarita mix! Yummy.”
“Yes! You have to try it!”
And then the thread went on, with questions where to buy SkinnyGirl, advice on grocery delivery, discussion of Fat Girl drink options too. I don’t even drink margaritas, and am opposed to naming a drink SkinnyGirl, and yet, and yet: I absolutely adore my playgroup. How can anyone ever parent without such conversations?