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You Be The Judge: On Playgroups And Tantrums

Today May Blossom and I went to a new (to us) local playgroup. There, in front of eight or so other mothers and a dozen kids, she had a complete meltdown. It was a proper toddler-sized one, complete with tears, snot, foot stamping, shrieking and furious air-punching. It came about because she had been driving around for ages in one of two big plastic toy cars. She loved it. A little boy, a year or two older than her and quite shy, clearly wanted a turn, so I explained that and after giving her the chance to hop out and give him a go, I removed her from the car. You’d have thought I’d drowned her kitten.

It probably wasn’t as awful to others as it was to me, but most of the other mums there have two or more kids, and I suddenly felt like a complete beginner. Were they judging me? Did they think I was a bad mother? Or worse, did they think May Blossom was a horrible child? It was a trial visit and if we are asked back it could become a regular part of our routine. I so wanted us to make a good impression.

That has been one of the hardest things about motherhood for me: worrying about what other people think of how I am doing and what they think about my child. I am, I confess, a bit of an approval junkie (What? An approval junkie, here on the internet? Writing about myself day after day? No! Surely I jest.) I like to be liked. Extend that to my spawn and it’s magnified a thousandfold. But while I want to teach May Blossom that it’s nice to have friends, I don’t want her to think you have to please everybody all the time. So what if some people don’t like you? That’s their problem. I can type that, but deep down I don’t think I really believe it. But I should believe it and I should try to instil it in my daughter. (On the other hand, I should also instil in her the belief that carjacking is not okay – she did try to open the door of the car and haul the other kid out.)

Realistically, I know that those women probably weren’t looking disapprovingly to me as I tried to deal with the meltdown. While I remained calm, offered the distraction of other toys and rides down the slippery dip, they were, if they even noticed us, probably thinking about when exactly the same thing had happened to them, and thanking their lucky stars it wasn’t their turn this time round. Or as parents of bigger kids they might even have been looking back nostalgically at this time when this was the worst they had to deal with. I don’t know. I hope that’s what they were thinking.

I had to restrain myself from making excuses. I wanted to say she hardly ever does this. She is getting two molars. It’s getting close to naptime. She’s probably hungry. All those things were true, but what was also true was that she was being confronted with the concept of sharing and that can be hard to learn when you are fifteen months old. I suspect her reaction was fairly age-appropriate. I have to trust that she will learn these things in time and I that I just have to keep reinforcing the idea that other kids get to use toys too.

Either that or she’s turning into a total shit. Time will tell.

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