Natalie and I have been attending a play group for a little while. It is organized by some women from church and each week a different sister hosts. This week was my turn. It was very educational.
6 mothers came, 5 of whom had an infant within a few months of Natalie's age and a child within a few months of 3-years-old, and one of whom had only a child in the 3-years range. So, there were 6 babies and and 6 older toddlers total. And 6 moms.
It was a nuthouse. First of all, I should have moved the table to the side of the dining room so more kids could play in there. As it was, our small living room was just a writhing mess of child limbs and toys for most of the afternoon. The major problem was not the lack of space, but the lack of child-proofing. With exception to the stairs, which are not blocked as we are using the gate to keep Natalie off of the Christmas tree, our place is pretty well adjusted to keep Natalie safe. There is very little that she can reach that is problematic. It seems that 3-year-olds are taller and stronger than Natalie. Kids were getting down and playing with glass Christmas ornaments, knocking down the gate that blocked off the kitchen, throwing decorative pinecones from the corner table, opening the doors, trying to eat the dog treats on the counter. It was unbelievable! I was just running from kid to kid trying to pry danger out of their slimy little fingers! I had made a little playdough, expecting that some of the older kids might be bored because we only have baby toys, so I set it out on the table. Worked very well- a few kids went over to it and sat nicely on chairs and manipulated their playdough. Perhaps I was too smug in my victory, because a few moments later, I turned around to see two kids throwing playdough at each other (the balls of playdough, of course, landing on the floor where the babies were already getting to it and putting in their mouths. Natalie, at this very second, puked a bright green puddle of playdough); another child had grabbed the salt and pepper shakers that I had so foolishly left on the table and had poured out a lake of salt and paper that covered nearly a quarter of the table; another child, who the salt and pepper shakers had been passed along to, was banging the glass shakers on the glass table top; while yet another child had abandoned his playdough and was now interested in a toy car, which he threw forcefully at our glass door a second later.
Of course, it must be remembered that playgroups such as these are not held for the sake of the children. No, no; playgroups exist for the sole purpose of allowing the mothers to sit around and relax, while their children destroy somebody else's house for a change, and complain about how hard it is to be a mother. While I was mainly busy with my hostess-ly duties of, well, making sure that my house was not leveled, I did try to keep up with the conversation and interject my thoughts on the most important topics known to mother-kind: potty-training (consensus: it is impossible); food and nutrition (stories of kids making messes, complaints of not knowing what to cook for dinner that is cheap, healthy and tastes like it was made by a five-star chef); breastfeeding (those trying to stop at 9 months because baby bites so badly and those still breastfeeding at 18 months because they like the bonding); family planning (how easy vs terrible infants affect the timing of having more children); and, most importantly: body image (subcategories: weight, dietary restrictions, exercise, clothing and, most importantly, what pregnancy and childbirth have done to my body).
I was a little relieved when playgroup was over and I waved goodbye to the last moms and kids. I was beat. I was physically exhausted by trying to keep up with the kids and mentally exhausted at the realization of the new and seemingly unending challenges that I will face as Natalie continues to grow and we have more children. As I sat pondering, I feel it significant to mention that Natalie was hanging on the bar at the base of her highchair, drooling onto the floor- just staring as the strings of spit fall and developed into a puddle on the carpet. Her drool was bright green.
Anyway, I've got to go now. Just put Natalie down for a nap, so I need to hurry up and go sit on the couch and watch mindless daytime television and eat cookies. This place looks like a disaster zone, but somehow, I have used up all of my energy during the creation of this mess and have none left to do the cleaning up.