Parent Group: Round Four
For those protesting that we’ve jumped right from the beginning of the Parent Group saga to its end, you are partly right. The rise of baked goods in round 2 was briefly covered in my hospital update (we were discharged three days later with a wealth of tiny syringes with which to administer the tutti-frutti antibiotic designed to combat L’s resurgent pneumonia) and, well, in the week of hospital I actually skipped class.
I felt deviant doing so, like a truanting child. Which possibly says far too much about both my attitude to Parent Group and the amount of deviancy in my life right now. Nonetheless, between carrot cake and copping out, we have arrived at Parent Group round 4 – the final mandatory round.
Our bobbed instructor, Jen, encourages the class to share snippets from our week and, after some silence, I share our dramatic stint in paediatrics. It draws initial sympathy but then judgement descends as it is revealed that L had been intermittently working hard to breathe (the muscles under the ribs ‘suck in’, sometimes, when he inhales) for several weeks and that I (Bad Mother) had considered this to be pretty much business as usual. In my defence – and I do feel defensive – it was business as usual; L has always breathed in that manner. And despite that early pneumonia, was (is) a happy (and quickly fattening) baby who never met the ‘distress’ element of ‘respiratory distress’ that (suggests Google) warrants a trip to emergency. But I digress.
I also fall foul of our esteemed leader for turning my back on L when changing him, which could have allowed him to learn to fly (read: roll) in the seconds my back was turned and pitch an escape. While my reasoned self acknowledged the legitimacy of the point, the rest of me feels like a scolded kid. Not helping dispel the feeling of infantilism, this week is Solids (capitalisation important) and some has been bought along to try.
For us of course, not the babies, who are only allowed to look on with varying levels of interest. So there we are, grown adults, sitting in a circle on the floor, eating pureed banana custard out of a squeezy pouch off plastic spoons.
Delicious (mostly sugar).
Despite the convenience of the squeezy pouches, we are informed that you are never to give them to the offspring and allow them to feed (read: gorge) themselves but must first decant the offering onto a spoon for them to them smear on selves / you / anything in vicinity. This is apparently necessary because eating food off a utensil, even gloop, requires different mouth-muscle movements than simply swallowing it straight.
While this may very well be true it also seems, in refuting the convenience implied by the packaging, to establish yet another layer of difficulty between parents and the big wide world.
Jen asks when we think we can begin solids. ‘Four months’ I optimistically venture. The response ‘anyone else?’ indicates this is incorrect. ‘Four-to-six months’ another voice opines. Silence. ‘Six months?’ This is clearly code-word-correct because Jen lights up, bob bouncing in animation. ‘Right, so six months is when we can begin to think about introducing solids.’ I suspect mine is not the only face looking slightly disbelieving as Jen promptly follows this with ‘as is in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.’ Eugh. No one seems game to discuss any further the possibility of earlier introductions after this definitive statement though I know one mother is already feeding her 5-month old rice cereal for breakfast. Kid appears thriving.
In the awkward silence that follows, we sit with our plastic spoons and reflect on how we definitely won’t contravene the WHO guidelines (spoiler alert, I will, L is already interested in food and the notion of me being his sole sustenance for another three whole months is mind numbing) the woman from ACT Playgroups arrives. For those playing at home, ACT Playgroups are a non-government-government-funded body whose mission it is to facilitate set times at which children will congregate for play and structured fun activities. No, really. It blows my mind that this is a thing and that it is a job to go around and tell new parents about it.
I’m all on board though. It seems wonderful and, when older, slightly like free childcare (probably this is an overly optimistic read of their services). The woman presenting is dumpy with a haircut chosen for efficiency and clothing that suggests she enjoys the outdoors. She tells us about how Playgroups were instrumental in her own enjoyment of motherhood and how she now, twenty years on, takes the bush exploration playgroups that seek to connect kids with nature. She seems pretty cool. She shows us how you can make your own building blocks by covering tea boxes or other household rubbish in holographic contact and how a water bottle partially filled with rice (and sequins) will give your baby endless entertainment.
She tells us that they also run playgroups in other languages for bilingual families. ‘Like, French?’ I ask. ‘Oh yes she says, and Spanish and German and there’s a Vietnamese one that’s just started up and Cantonese and many others.’ I’m sold. J can take L to playgroup! Under the guise of play they can both practice their French (or dribbling).
She also tells us that we can set up our own playgroup as a way of keeping our parent group alive. The awkward silence that follows really should answer that question but a neat lady with boring shoes who looks the type to have helped take rollcall in school volunteers to take the ‘start a group’ package and get the ball rolling. Great.
Jen wishes us luck and that seems to be that. Parent group over. We will about. Is it rude to promptly stride off? Probably. In penance for my uncharitable thoughts
I say yes to coffee with the group and we depart in a conga line of strollers. Worn out from the exhaustion of listening to the possibility of starting solids, the babies are pretty much all asleep and it seems a natural moment to have an actual conversation possibly like not about our kids? Like, I still don’t know what any of these women do, think or like (beyond private hospitals). It seems odd to ask someone what they do for a living when you’ve already seen their nipples but how else are you meant to proceed to the real? As I mull this over the women peel off, one by one citing the need to put their sleeping infants into other receptacles / keep their infants asleep by keeping them mobile.
I can’t shake the feeling that no one has any real interest in anyone else. Sigh. We’re all just in it for the babies.