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About eight months ago, I got my first clue that Simon might benefit from spending more time around other babies and toddlers. We were visiting friends in Boston, their daughter was in a “mine” phase, and Simon had no idea what to do when she took a toy from him other than suck in his lower lip and cry. It was dispiriting.

Our good intentions never materialized into more play, though, because neither Matt nor I could figure out how to work and find playgroups at the same time-especially when it was dark by five, too cold or wet to go out most days, and we saw few other children when we did get out. As a result, we all watched fall and winter go by from the confines of our cozy little bubble.

Then, about a month ago, I got to the chapter on 18-month-olds in Touchpoints, and good old T. Berry hammered home the point that at this age, regular play with peers becomes important. I heard T. Berry loud and clear, but I still couldn’t figure out how to do this when I work 10-3 or so four days a week while Simon is home with a sitter. It seems to me that working full time with Simon in day-care or working no-time with me available mid-day for play groups would both allow for more peer play than our otherwise ideal present arrangement does.

The final straw came two weeks ago when Simon was evaluated by his physical therapist for First Steps. Amy offhandedly commented that if Simon were in day-care with a bunch of kids literally running him over, he’d be up and walking by now. At home with us, he’s just not feeling the pressure.

Amy didn’t say this to criticize me. In fact, she quickly added that First Steps goes to day care centers all the time, and that those kids can have their own issues crop up. “Believe me, she said, my new one starts day care in a few weeks, and I’d be happier doing what you are doing.”

Perhaps she saw the fear in my eyes and that’s what prompted her confessional. I’ll never know, but I do know that her assessment made me seriously question whether I have been doing right by Simon for the first time in a long, long while. Would he be better off in day care? If I’m going to be home, do I need to be home full-time so we can get out and join play-groups? Am I enjoying the convenience and luxury of my work arrangement at his expense? The thought, code as it was for “Am I a bad mother?” set me on edge.

Thankfully, I don’t hear that voice in my head very often. Equally thankfully, summer has arrived, making it easier to get out these days. I took Simon to a play group last Friday and managed to appear chipper enough even though I am a full decade older than most of the other moms there. Simon got into the swing of things eventually, but he spent the first forty minutes literally holding on to my shirt and watching the others play from the sidelines. That, too, was dispiriting, but in keeping with his shy demeanor at playgrounds this spring.

Finally, two of the other six kids left, and Simon warmed up enough to sit in the sandbox and make a happy mess. He also managed to play ball with a boy his age and climb up and down the stairs a bunch of times. Baby steps all.

But he was happiest with me and one of the other moms, and I realize that from now until preschool in the fall I will need to heed the wise T. Berry and not just read him and make excuses. It’s not just that I think Simon needs the pressure to walk, but also that if does get up in time for preschool, it’s going to be a rough first week if he’s totally unused to being surrounded by his peers. It’s great that he loves adults so much, but the kids will outnumber the grownups at KI preschool! So the new rule, no excuses, is playgroups twice a week. Whatever inconvenience this brings me should be more than offset by quieting the questioning voice within.

One Response to “Socialization”

  1. bgavin55 says:

    Sounds like a good idea – and carefully considered.
    Weighing the pros and cons and making the best decision you can at that very moment is all anyone can expect.
    Your willingness to question and test your original assumptions and plans is admirable and very brave.

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