THE WEEKLY HERALD   EVERETT, WASHINGTON
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Are we too paranoid for playgroups?

I BRAKE FOR MOMS | By Jennifer Bardsley
Earlier this year my mother gave me a 10-minute lecture on how instead of paying for my daughter to go to Kindermusik at the Frances Anderson Center, I should form a free playgroup with neighborhood moms instead, like she did when I was little. I tried to explain that even though that was a great idea 30 years ago, it would not work for me now.
For starters, our corner of Edmonds is really aging, and until recently there were no preschoolers on our block. My mom suggested posting a notice online to recruit playgroup participants. I was horrified. The same lady who cautioned me not to sell my coffee table on Craigslist because I would be inviting ax murderers into my house was now suggesting I post an advertisement that said “Wanted! Three-year-old girls! Chaperones optional!” There is no way I would leave my daughter with a stranger who answered an ad like that just so I could have a couple of hours to myself each month. But even if there were four families with preschoolers living on my cul-de-sac, a 1980s playgroup would be tough to re-create.
In 2012, playdates with young children do not involve dropping your kid off and saying, “See ya later!” Parents usually stay the whole time, and although they might not explicitly ask, they are usually wondering questions like: “Is there a gun in this house? Do these people smoke? Will their large dog be secured? Do any of these toys have magnets in them that my son might eat?” There also can be complicated food issues that start with, “Does anyone have a peanut allergy?” and end with, “Oh my gosh, you're serving my child Goldfish instead of organic Cheddar Bunnies!”
But this does not mean that young children are not socializing. All you have to do is open up “The Craze” and you can find a bevy of fun things to do with your little one in Mountlake Terrace or Edmonds. Lynnwood used to be part of “The Craze” too, but now that they have their spectacular new pool they also have their own brochure. Really, Lynnwood? “The Craze” was no longer good enough for you?
My favorite playgroup for the modern age is the infant and toddler class at Edmonds Community College's Family Life and Education Department. For two hours a week your child can play, paint and pound playdough with friends while you sit in the corner of the room talking with other adults. There is also a “Daddy and Me” class on Thursday nights, where my husband gets a chance to make new friends and I get a brief break from my daughter each week.
The true irony about playgroups is that 30 years ago there were no cellphones or answering machines. So when my mom dropped a 2-year-old me off at a playgroup, there was radio silence. Modern parents are more connected than ever, but nobody I know would host a group of four preschoolers, sans parents. Stay-at-home moms like me did not put our careers on hold to watch other people's children. If we did, we would probably charge people money and call it daycare.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.
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