Friday, February 19, 2010

Tales Of the Play-Group Kind

The BB is my first baby, and infact my first long and hands on experience with a baby and its care. I am an only child, so I never saw siblings being brought up, nor did an elder sibling have kids before me, for me to know how things go. My cousins live worlds apart, some I have not even seen in ages, so well, I basically have not seen children being brought up, never been closely associated with their care, till a few of my friends popped up children. So pretty much everything I did for or with the BB was a first timer for me.

Recently he joined a playgroup. Honestly, I did not even know what exactly that is, and what to expect.I have grown up in India, very middle class upbringing. I remember my first brush formal education was a pre-nursery thing, which lasted for about 2 days, and on the third, I just ran away from it and walked back home, at the ripe old age of two and half or three. End of story, then fast forward to four plus, and I joined a proper school. So all the pre-nursery, playschool kind of thing is quite alien to me. Things being different here, no unstructured playing, or hanging around with kids of the neighbourhood happening, I needed to find something for the BB to do, to start socialising. Especially since he has never done that, with us having being moving around all this time. So the playschool option came up, and I jumped on it, not knowing too well what to expect.

On enquiring, I was told, I just need to carry some drinks and snacks for the BB for the two hour session if I want to. So all happy and excited, off I went with a few biscuits and some water to conquer the world of playgroup with the BB. What do you think it was, exactly, what the name says, a PLAY GROUP. Mothers, come in with their children, there are toys and activity stuff around, and the children basically play around and have their fun. Wow! Was I surprised? You bet. I have lived all my life in India people, the place where such things happen in the society compound, or gali (lane), or for the fortunate few a park or ground. The tools available, are some stones, to play pitthu, or a chalk to draw the table for stapu(hopskotch), and occasionally some dilligently collected balls, bats and raquets for playing. This completly formal set up was new to me to say the least. (For all those who are thinking this, I am putting it out aloud, in writing here, I am a un-enlightened gawaar(villager).) I still find it hard to believe that parents need to sit around, and watch children play, just regular play. There is no teacher teaching, or instructor or carer, but just a bunch of mommies, with their bachha party, there for a couple of hours of playing in a week. And the mothers actually drive down with packed lunches, and drinks for their lil ones for this 'activity'. I am impressed by their dedication, and yet nonplussed by the concept. Isn't it simpler to just let the kids join hands at the local park each evening and play, run and have fun? But from what I hear, its more about organised, formal activities than simple play and run around here.

Is it fun? Oh yes! The kids painted, atleast the ones who felt like it. Some ran around with wheel barrows, or cars, and for most of the time, most of them sat in the sand pit, and played with beach toys, atleast that is what the BB did most of the time. The kids all did their own thing, I did not see any group playing, and I did not say anything either, because it was my first time, and I was getting a hang of the playgroup, as much as of things around the place. The mothers seemed to be having a gala time chatting up, and swapping tales. I enjoyed it quite a bit myself. Also my first time interacting at a personal level with the locals, and it sure helped me learn. They are a friendly inclusive bunch of people there, and asked me a few things, about where I come from, what I do, how many kids I have, and how many more I plan on. I was the only one with just one child there, the minimum limit seemed to be two and quite a few had three or more. I was literally at the bottom rung. So many had closely spaced babies, with age gaps of a year or even less, and I cannot help being amazed at how well they are managing, with activities and more, no househelp/cook/chauffer/nanny to aid either. It was fun to just talk to them, and hear them chatting. Everyone was eager to help out with finding activities for the BB to do, since I am new here. And its so good to see, that academics are not the only option, nor the only focus.

Two pieces of conversation have stayed on with me, and I am representing them here, just to record them for posterity. The first one, was my big blunder, when referring to, what I have now learned should be called as caucasians, if I wish to be politically correct. A lady asked me about life in Dubai, and what kind of people are there, and while trying to explain, I used the word whites/white skinned people, and I knew that very moment that I had made a blunder, but for the life of me, could not recollect or think of the right term to use. Came home and realised, I infact did not know what is the politically correct term to be used to refer to the white skinned people, I know about Afrian- Americans or Asians, but the whites, what does one call them? Twitter to rescue please, tweeted, and specially asked Soli for advice, since she seems to be quite the wise one, and 'caucasian', came the reply. The second one, did not register with me , at the time it occured, but resonated in my super slow mind, after I came home. One of the ladies, asked me where I was from, and when I said, "India", she exclaimed surprise that I could speak English well. Somehow in the din and fun of being around the sand pit, and ofcourse my pea sized brain, the comment did not register at that point. And I think it was good it did not, because I may have reacted unfavourably, which would not have been a nice way to go on the very first day. And then as the GP pointed out, it maybe surprise, because India is not an English speaking country as such, just as people would be surprised by a Spanish man speaking fluently in English. Trust him to always come up with positive ideas, and do away with any negative thoughts that may build up. I found the explanation plausible enough, and decided to let to rest me easily provoked mind, and give the lady the benefit of doubt, also I don't remember exactly which one of them it was! Also wondering why hostile thoughts occur to me, before nice, positive ones like the GP, I so envy him that.

Those were the highlights of our first day in the playgroup. The BB behaved himself, and did not trouble any child, nor was he troubled by any. He played on his own, just as did all the others. Hoping that associations and friendships will form over time. The BB actually went and patted, and laid down, beside a little girl who was sleeping for most of the session. I found that really sweet, but then I am his smitten-for-life mother remember! The only problem is, that the BB goes and grabs the arm of pretty much any child he sees, though fortunately he did not do that the entire session on Monday. While for kids his size or older, I have no fear, besides the parents not liking their child being grabbed by someone unknown, I am very worried when he does to younger kids, since he may hurt them, unknowingly. I keep repeating to him, not to touch other children each time, we go out, but I really don't know how to get him off the habit of grabbing the arm of other children completely. He likes kids, and approaches them as soon as he spots them, and for the life of me I cannot make him nonchalant about them, and in someways, I am not sure I want him to be that way either. For now, I am hung up on the arm-grabbing thing, and I need to find a way to get the BB to get over that.


MRC said...


Thanks for enlightening another gawaar. Once I was playing online scrabble with a lady from Australia, and even though my 400+ (yes, I'm blowing my horn now :) score wasn't enough to beat her, she was quite surprised at my English vocab. Now I know why! :D And this
"Also wondering why hostile thoughts occur to me, before nice, positive ones like the GP, I so envy him that."
Same story here

Sraboney said...

When I was in Sydney, I always got asked if I had taken lessons in English...Your husband is right - India is not an English speaking country and so, foreigners are surprised when they here us speaking the language fluently...

Smitha said...

The playgroups are quite similar here too. Here, we do go to parks and playgrounds. I used to like playgroups for a bunch of reasons.

1. It rains pretty much always here - so playroups make a lot of sense. We used to go to 2 different playgroup - 2 times a week each and on one day, we used to go for a singing session :) One of the play groups had a lovely outdoor area as well - so it made sense.

2. It used to give daughter(and me) a sense of routine. Every morning at 10 - it used to be a regular feature. Plus meeting the same children everyday meant that she got to be friends with them and we used to meet up with them outside the playgroup too :)

Am sure that lady meant what GP and Bones suggest. I don't really think she meant to be rude or anything..

Rakesh said...

Tis such a huge difference in the way we grew up innit! Even I started school from KG-1 but for the kids, I put so much time and energy on deciding which is the best play school. I mean, I considered content of activities, infrastructure (play area, pool etc.) nationality of teachers (specifically not filipino coz. they have a strong accent when they speak in English) etc. etc.

Come to think of it, they are only going to go there for around 6 months to a year before they begin proper school but still I wanted to make sure the beginning is perfect.

And then at times I wonder, even we did we grow up to be just fine...

Passionate Goof said...

MRC - You are most welcome, thank God, this blog is of some service to others. ;)
Your hubby the saintly types too! Uff, what a nail they can be to our bloated halo.

Bones - I agree to the logic, and am believing that now.

Smitha - I am sure the playgroup would make loads of sense in the chilly winters. I hope I get more stuff for the BB to do.

Rakesh - Oh! yes. We had more informal, relaxed stuff happening, and life was more fun for that I believe. Now, the world needs everything formalised, kind of kills the creative spirit.