giving up

So it's over, I'm giving up on playgroups.

This morning we went to our usual Monday morning group at the children's centre which is usually pretty good and also quite quiet. This group is really lovely, they have lots of fun activities to do with sensory, creativity and learning, plus other good toys and a lovely outside play area, so I'm sad to maybe not go anymore, maybe I will occasionally. It's not the playgroup itself that I don't like, it's the other parents. And this goes for other playgroups too, I don't like the parents.

I find it stressful being there, negotiating fair play and having to constantly watch over your chid, because let's face it, Theo isn't the most gentle child in the world. But I hate the way I'm made to feel, like I have a terror of a child, who is a complete anomaly and like no child has ever acted that way before. I feel constantly judged (by parents not by the actual staff who work there). Yes Theo hits other children, occasionally pushes and very rarely bites. He's loud, he's energetic and he's boisterous. He get's over excited, he wants to play with what ever anyone else is playing with and he gets frustrated. But he's not the only one who ever does this. I didn't choose for Theo to be like this, and we certainly don't encourage or use violence on him at home or anywhere. But that's just the way he is, and hopefully it will pass at some point, hopefully soon. The majority of parents you meet usually have a kind word to say about it, along the lines of "don't worry, we've been there" or "it's ok, they're usually the same" which is nice, it shows they know what you are going through and that they know it will pass. But some parents it seems just judge, say things that when thought about later are actually quite rude, and just generally make you feel like a bad parent.

Whenever Theo hits or snatches, each and every time I will take him to one side and explain that what he did wasn't very nice, that he might have upset or hurt the other child, and that we need to say sorry. 70% of the time he will say sorry, and all is forgotten. Sometimes he doesn't and will try and hit again, and if that's the case then he'll get a warning that we have to leave, and if he does it again, then we will leave. I use positive encouragement and praise when he's behaving nicely and we talk and explain how to share and wait our turn. I know that I'm doing everything I can to help him through this phase, and I always do this, but still I feel like I am judged. Just because you're child has never, or isn't old enough to act in this way doesn't mean that you are a better parent than me, just because you haven't been tested in this way it doesn't mean that you won't be tested in other ways, and when or if they do I hope that people aren't there judging you or making comments. Because it's hurtful, and it goes pretty deeply when people criticise your parenting or your child.

The thing is, is that this is just one side to Theo, and maybe this is all they see of him, but in general he is a lovely little boy. He is incredibly friendly, and will say hello and try to make friends with everyone. He is polite and kind, will always say thank you and please. He does like to share and involve other people in what he's doing and he's a bright and inquisitive child. He's outgoing and affectionate and happy. He will always check if his friends are ok, try and help them up if they've fallen or will wonder why if they're upset. I know all this because I'm around him all the time and I see all these sides so it's really hard when you are made to feel like you are the mother of a out of control child. Because he's not out of control, he's a two year old boy with lots of energy. And at this period in time, before his language is fully developed, it's hard for them to speak their frustration and easier to act out and hit.

But until that point I think I'm just going to give the whole playgroup thing a break. But now that the weather is getting better more outside trips can be made. I have a friend who has been through the very same thing with her little boy who is a few months older than Theo, and who herself can't handle small confined spaces with lots of other small children and toys anymore either, and we have pledged to just go out on day trips, to go on walks, to the park, or play in the garden.

So there! I just hope that parents will stop judging each other and just try their hardest to be the best parent they can for their own children and respect that they may not know or see the whole side of the child or the parent they are criticising. We're all in this together! 


  1. That's horrid that you've been made to feel like you are not a good parent! It is a stage, we all do go through it and it lasts quite a long time. Also, as much as you have to try to teach your child to share at the same time I just don't think they do get it until they are 3 or 4. Yes sometimes Henry will give something he is playing with to another child but there is no real empathy yet. They are busy developing in so many ways I really don't think you can expect them to spontaneously share - maybe people would judge me for thinking that but I don't care. I don't think it's worth you putting yourself through something where you come out feeling bad about yourself or about Theo and there are loads of better things to do out there now the sun is shining! Two fingers to play groups I say!!

  2. Uh, people just luuuuuurrrrve to judge. If it's not about behaviour, it's food, or it's the fact I might watch S attempt something that others see as dangerous and I'm made to feel bad for not hovering around him all the time. Ignore them - get outside and let that lovely fun little boy enjoy himself. You are doing a sterling job. xxx

  3. Thank you, I thought I was the only one who would prefer not to put myself through the glaring and tutting. I also have a little boy who is playful and energetic. To the point when all the cows are supposed to be sleeping he proceeds to climb and jump over all the children. I really wish mothers and carers would stop judging others

  4. Oh, I feel you! It is the most frustrating feeling in the world to feel like other parents are judging you when you know you are doing the right thing for you and your child. I have to really grit my teeth sometimes. Feel confident that you are a wonderful mama and you are doing the right thing for Theo!

  5. This is my first time to your blog but I really wanted to speak up and say that I am so sorry you've had such a difficult time with other parents on this. One of my closest friends has a son who went through an aggressive phase (as did two other parents I know and see frequently) and I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be for both of you (I'm sure your son feels your stress and feels the negativity from these people surrounding him) (gosh I hope that doesn't make me sound like too much of a hippie dippy freak show) to not have the full support of your community while navigating those waters. I think sometimes that people forget (and I've been guilty of this myself so I shouldn't talk) that in order to become kind, compassionate and respectful people, children need those values modeled for them. They need to be surrounded by kindness, support, compassion, empathy, respect, patience, and so on as they grow and learn - and they need to see it as often as possible. That means it's our responsibility as a community to model positive values for the children in our community, all of us, and I'm really bummed out that some of these mothers have forgotten that entirely.

    I hope that sometime soon you are able to connect with a community of mothers who appreciates your son for who he is - ALL of him - and is able to connect with you in a more positive and supporting manner than the ones you seem to have run into thus far.

  6. I totally empathise. I think it's incredibly rare if kids don't go through this phase! My toddler can be a huge pickle when we go out, especially since I had his brother.
    I stopped going to playgroup a few weeks ago. It wasn't a conscious decision, we just sort of never went back after the half term break. But having read this post I realise I've totally been avoiding the place. I used it as a crutch - it broke up the mornings and I thought E needed the socialisation on the days hes not at nursery, turns out he's a MUCH happier, calmer little boy when we avoid playgroup.
    Don't be disheartened by the judgey types. There are lots of us who will happily admit to our children being exactly the same! It's just a normal, healthy transition while learning boundaries. X

  7. I don't understand - he sounds like a toddler, like ALL toddlers but with a lovely side to counter the bashing, thumping and clawing that they ALL do sometimes. I'm so sorry you've been made to feel judged - but you mustnt let it stick, Theo is clearly a wonderful little boy and you're clearly a brilliant parent. And Alexis is right - there are so many better places to be right now than a musty playgroup, we should all be frolicking around in the sunshine (even if we're still in our hats and scarves..!) xxx

  8. If I only took one thing from your blog, it would be what a great mother you are to such a lovely little boy. The other mum's aren't better parents for putting you down. Quite the opposite. That's why I really don't understand the competitive mum thing. Think of all the adventures you can have together instead of going to the play group. My son is too young to comment on our experience yet but as Theo grows he'll contantly be learning from your example, so I'm sure he'll grow out of this phase. Madi


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