I have found my happy place. It’s taken two years and much exploration, but I’m thrilled to say I have found somewhere I truly belong. (Second to the ultimate happy place, my home, I should add..) A safe environment where I feel welcomed, at home and at ease. People understand me. They even offer hot drinks and chocolate biscuits.
No, it’s not my parents’ house, though they too offer all of the above.
It’s a toddler group and it is everything.
The 4321 toddler group is held once a week in the Wokingham Baptist Church. I’ve only been going for a few weeks with Leo, but was hooked from day one. For the humble sum of £1.50, you’re given full access to a lively room full of toys, books and puzzles, and another with arts, crafts and refreshments. A brief sing-song and bubbles is put on at some point as a cherry on the cake.
It became clear from the beginning Leo did not require my presence at this group.
“Which one’s yours?” a lady said to me a few weeks ago.
“He’s over there, yellow jumper, with the train-set..”
“So independent isn’t he!”
“Yes I think he’s bored of me now..” I say, secretly elated.
From the moment we enter the room, he is aware of his freedom and chooses to exercise it. I can recall maybe one occasion where he’s actually approached me during the course of the 90 minutes. (To hand me a train, obviously.) Of course I’ll either have my eye on him or be perched next to him, offering my help in whatever activity he’s engrossed in, not that he seems particularly fussed either way. He’s quite content navigating the room and all its many delights alone.
A key component of my happy place is that the toddler is also happy.
This is all if he even lets me enter the room with him. Today, he kicked up a fuss outside the front door and I had no idea why. Then he took me by the hand and led me to the side of the building. I stayed put, curious as to what his plans were. He then turned around and left me there, walking through the front door alone, marching into the main room (with all the toys) and making a beeline for the train-set. I trailed behind, stopping to pay on my way in.
This was significantly less embarrassing than last week, when he bolted past a long queue of other attendees waiting patiently to pay and go in. I watched as he snuck into the room and headed for his trusty train-set. (Every time).
“Do you want to go in after him?” A staff member said.
“Nah..he’s fine, I can see him..”.
I could half-see him, but it really wasn’t worth the tantrum to drag him back out again. Plus I couldn’t bear to queue jump.
The 4321 is a brilliant space where a mother (or father/grandparent/whoever) can watch her children play outside of the home, rain or shine, with the company of a whole load of other people who know exactly what it is like to be a parent.
My favourite thing about the group – besides the biscuits – is meeting other Mums. You can’t put a price on this connection. This connection is survival in the parenting world.
“If you know you know!” one Mum said to me today as we chatted about sleep deprivation and partners being away.
Indeed. If you know you know.