After E is settled happily on the mat in a classroom upstairs, I leave him, stopping to tuck a couple of Clementines into my diaper bag as I descend the steps into the basement of the school. The director of First Teacher sticks her head out the door and reminds me that we’re meeting in the same place as last month, and “not to breathe as I walk through the cafeteria because it smells bad.” I laugh a bit as she waits to greet some latecomers and I make my way to the workshop. (And I do hold my breath, but only after taking a quick whiff as I walk through and regretting that decision).
In the school basement, I’m welcomed immediately by faces I remember from the last workshop: a grandmother, some mothers whose age defies the fact they have grown children, a couple of fathers. We sit around a large table, talking about how to made it through the snow days, laughing that we managed to keep our sanity, compelled to gather because, as parents of children from 0-4, we are their best teachers.
When I go to First Teacher, I feel mighty. I have so many insecurities as a Rookie Mom, worry so much that I’m going to screw something up in E’s early development that will scar him for life, that I need a way to talk to and be around people who won’t judge me, will help me be a better parent, and will, most importantly, offer the types of support and encouragement that I miss, largely because as a single parent usually I’m channeling all my energy into making it through the day. I’ve found that reassurance here, from these other parents who are so kind with their advice, so understanding with their wisdom.
Today’s workshop was about play. The nerd in me rejoices at the part of every workshop that talks about the research behind play–it’s just long enough to be informative but not boring, and then we have a hands-on workshop. From a table full of random objects–ranging from a loaf pan, to felt, to dolls, to blocks, to a plastic lei–we had to decide first what we would play with and why and then what we thought our kids would like to play with. And because the FT founder wants to make sure we can actually talk to other adults, she provides free childcare during the workshop. The babies have a play date and the adults do, too!
Then, the kicker: every month, parents receive a calendar and STICKERS to mark when they read to their child. You bring it back the following month and are entered into a raffle. Last time, I won: a $25 gift card to Marshall’s! I rarely win anything, so I split it with E: I bought myself some socks and I bought him a couple of spring/summer outfits. I admitted that, for the reading, I’m extrinsically motivated. I feel awful admitting it, but some days, it’s hard for me to sit down and read to E, and he is indicating that he just loves his books (I’m happy with that; I guess he does get it from his mama). I post the calendar in a prominent location and I am quite religious about reading and placing a sticker on the day when we do it. I think the calendar is a daily reminder (and it induces enough guilt for me to find ways to read to him) to read to my kid. I’m okay with that. The reading we do is joyful. I’m just trying to do it more consistently. Bonus, too, that there’s a table of free, brand-new books at every workshop.
Tonight, E and I read and we played. And I felt a little bit more confident that whatever we’re doing, however we do it, is exactly right for us.