I’ll admit it – I’m a homebody. Even in my pre-parenting days, my idea of an exciting evening was sitting on the couch, ordering food in and watching a good movie. Now, it involves sitting on the couch, ordering food in, and attempting to watch something (it doesn’t matter what, since I’m not going to be able to follow the dialogues or nuances anyway) while being interrupted constantly by my daughter.
But when it comes to my toddler’s social life, I do get off the couch occasionally, thanks to that powerful motivator, ‘mommy guilt’ (“Am I doing enough for my child? Oh my god, other moms are doing so much more!”). Also, ‘toddler boredom’ that manifests itself as a lot of whining along the lines of “Ammaaaaaaa! Play with meeeeee!”
So, when she was about one-and-a-half, we did the ‘mom and me’ type classes, where she got to go socialise with other one-and-a-half-year-olds. By this, I mean they ignored each other, except for those special moments where they grabbed the same toy and cried. Still, the classes got us out of the house, got us involved in fun activities we (okay, I) enjoyed, and I managed to have some adult conversation with other moms (even if it was mostly just about our toddlers’ eating and pooping habits).
Once she got a bit older, we started doing the library (or ‘libra-read’ as my daughter calls it), park, beach and indoor play area rounds to keep ourselves occupied. This is how it usually works: In one of those sudden, caffeinated bouts of morning enthusiasm, I blurt out, “How about we go to the play area today?” My daughter, who doesn’t yet understand that such plans are meant to be forgotten, latches on to it, and says, “Can we go to the play area now?” every few minutes for the rest of that day and the next. With the mommy guilt really kicking in, I give in and finally take her. Then she has such a good time that I get carried away and say, “We’ll go to the park tomorrow!” as we go home. And so it goes.
As far as socialising is concerned, our mainstay is the play-date. This, as any mom knows, is no child’s play. You’ve got to trade calls back and forth with other harried moms, deal with different napping/eating schedules, and find a mutually convenient time to set up a meeting that will invariably not happen because one of the toddlers will decide to wing it and not follow the usual schedule that day (secretaries of the CEOs of multinational companies have an easier job scheduling global conferences). Play dates finally happen because of last-minute arrangements i.e. one mom calling the other saying, “Can we come right now?”
The play date itself is always a lively but slightly stressful affair. There’s plenty of noisy excitement and exploration of toys, jumping on beds and running around in circles squealing. This is the point at which you feel rather smug and pleased with yourself, and uplifted by all the positive energy. Unfortunately, this is usually followed by some serious squabbling over toys, and that word that every parent of a toddler learns to dread, S-H-A-R-E, gets bandied about a lot. By the time the dust settles, and both sulking toddlers have been appeased with lollipops, it’s time for the date to end, and there’s the usual crying session to deal with. This is the point at which you just want to lie down in a dark room with a cool rag over your eyes.
But on the plus side, your toddler, having forgotten her heartbreak that the date is over, is now bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about how much fun she had with her ‘best friend’.
And you can veg out on the couch guilt-free (even if not interruption-free) for the rest of the evening. What’s not to like?
(Divya Kumar is a freelance journalist and stay-at home mom.)