Every morning, thousands of Aussie mummies and their little ones rock up to a playgroup. Playgroups are generally community run and held in the local hall with dedicated parents running activities and cutting up fruit so exhausted mummies can get together and talk about their joys and woes of motherhood.
This morning, my daughter and I tried our local playgroup because one of her preschool friends goes there and her mum, who I like, runs it. She is my third child and has not been subject to a playgroup before. She knew where we were going and woke up excited to be going to sing music and see other kids.
We were there all of 3 and a half minutes. Justine Clarke’s Watermelon song was ringing out across the hall and 60 mummies, grandparents and a couple of daddies were holding pretty material and walking around in a circle with their rugrats singing ‘Watermelon, watermelon, I love you, love Watermelon, spit out the pips, lick your lips’. Over the speaker, my friend was welcoming everyone to the start of the working week (just to remind us we were not working today and lucky to be hanging out with fellow pram wheelers).
‘This is the worst thing ever Mummy, please take me home and never come back’, said my very independent four year old. Out of the mouths of babes. I was willing to give it a try but couldn’t possibly subject my cutie to it if she was that opposed to the energy in the room and the amount of kids running about.
At what point do we make our kids do something they don’t like because we think it is good for them?
She is 4 years old with a very strong mind and if she didn’t like being at playgroup why would I make her go. She is well socialized with two siblings and preschool three days a week plus the odd playdate and ballet group. If I had paid $300 for the term of playgroup, it may have been a different story. But I hadn’t and it felt good for her to be exercising her own decision to leave.
I see kids at swimming lessons screaming their little hearts out and the parents practically throwing them in. I agree that swimming is an important skill to learn but at 2 and a half when their little brains are so opposed to an activity that we thing they should know, is that the ideal situation? Should we wait for 6 months and try again? I have even seen kids being forced to do soccer or netball or whatever it is that parents thinks is the most important thing because it is in the ‘right’ group and they are playing for the ‘right’ team or the parents were netball players or soccer players at the same club. Meanwhile the kid hated every minute and the parent got crosser and crosser they were paying the exorbitant fees to make their child play and they didn’t want to.
Counter to this, I am all about building resilience in children and as the Rolling Stones say ‘you can’t always get what you want’. I am a strong believer that children should do things they don’t like to do but as a parent we need to juggle whether we are trying to impose our own ideas on our children or teaching them resilience by making them do it. AND at what cost?
Before we left, I spelled out the consequence of her actions for leaving and realized it was only that I might be embarrassed because I had promised my new friend we would be there and meet for coffee after. That is it. There was no consequence for her whatsoever. We got to walk down the street and buy lollies and deliver lunch to her daddy in his ‘big office’ before enjoying time walking together and having fun at home. To give a child a choice early on is imperative to them learning to navigate life and balance it with building resilience.
Do you think we give our children enough choice and independence in decision making to create independent thinkers? Or is ‘making’ your child endure playgroup going to build resilience?