Sunday, 30 October 2016

Swimming Lesson parents

When you become a parent you discover new places and situations that probably never entered your head before you welcomed your baby into the world.  

First there are the ante-natal classes, where you meet other bumps and their parents (we didn't bother with this one)

Next you've got the Doctor's Waiting Room on Health Visitor Clinic days... how's your little one?  Is he sleeping all night yet?  Have you not started him on solids yet?  Really?  Mine's been sleeping through since he was seven days old and is already humming along to Mozart.

You then brave the minefield otherwise known as Toddler Groups.  Some mum's love this and attend different toddler groups every day of the week - from story telling at the library to the one in this village and the next, and the breast-feeding support group and the rest.  My first experience of toddler group was terrible for various reasons, but I braved going back (eventually) and ended up running the one in our village.

Later you've got the school gate - many parents get stuck right in, joining one of the cliques, others will flit among a few groups, and still others will always be on the side-lines.  I don't need to write any more about this, because this article on netmums says it all.  

The soft-play and the playpark deserve special mention all of their own.  There are three possibilities - you either helicopter on your own children (depending on their age), playing with them, checking they are okay, or nursing their insecurity on your knee; or you go with a pal or few, you spend the time sipping coffee and chatting and occasionally check to make sure your children are not terrorising anybody else; or you go on your own, settle on a bench with a magazine or book and a hot chocolate and relish in some time all to yourself, looking up to make eye contact with your children in between pages.

The situation I've recently encountered is another category again.  Its the extra-curricular activity, and it seems to be a middle-class thing.  Some parents will never take their children to a ballet lesson or to Brownies, they just get them home from school and then playing out with their mates.  To other parents there is no such thing as an empty hour after school, as children are taxied to football, swimming lessons, Cubs and tae-kwon-do.  Asking for a playdate with these parents involves a frantic flick through the diary to find an empty slot.  My children currently both attend swimming lessons, and C is a Beaver Scout, and Hubby and I both also volunteer with the Scout Group.  Sitting in the humidity of the viewing area to the side of the swimming pool I glance around at the other parents and listen in on conversations.  Some are entertaining smaller children and using food to distract them from their boredom or the lure of climbing all over the crowded seats.  Others drape themselves over several rows of chairs, chatting about the latest school trip, the merits of the swimming teachers or their latest holidays.  It seems we've outgrown comparing our children and their skills and stages of development, and we are now on extended small-talk and complaining about school or social activities.  Others snatch the half-hour to catch up on Facebook, blogs or reading.  

I'm not sure where I sit in this mixture.  I don't do a lot of these activities, and at the swimming pool I'd say that I'm in the catching up with reading team usually.  But I am a social beast and I don't think that we are designed to sit in isolation in a crowded place.  I've tried joining in a conversation with the loud chatters, but was pretty quickly frozen out - I was clearly not in the clique!  

Since unfortunately, with the plethora of extra-curricular options, its unlikely that your schedule of taxi-worthy activities will match up with those of the friends you've built up on the parenting circuit, wouldn't it be great if we could  view these activities as opportunities to meet new potential friends for you and your children.  Why don't we put down the phones, look around, make eye contact, and introduce ourselves to new people.  Why don't we have real and fulfilling conversations while our little darlings are bobbing in the pool, learning how to kick box or pirouette?  I for one, would like to have actual social interactions much better than scanning my social media for some fragment of my friends' lives.

Who's with me?  Who would like to look up, smile and make conversation?

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