On Wednesday mornings I take my son to Spielgruppe, a local play group in my neighborhood.
Last year, I tried going and became frustrated not knowing what was going on all the time with everything in German and just didn’t feel comfortable. The babies were so little that the class was more for the mothers to converse while trading stories and tips than for the babies to “socialize.”
The next time the class was offered, the morning time didn’t work in conjunction with my son’s eating and sleeping schedule so I decided to forego the class. Annnndddd… I wasn’t looking forward to feeling like a wall-flower in a room full of social moms again. Anyone who knows me well will say I am anything but a wall-flower.
Since I moved here, one thing I’ve promised myself is that if something feels like it is doing more harm than good, I am not going to do it. I mean, I’m already living in Germany, how much further out of my comfort zone do I have to go?
It wasn’t until visiting with some friends a few weeks ago when my son kept being a little more forceful than I’d like and I decided I needed to make sure he was getting more social time with other babies/toddlers.
So, I decided maybe it was time to get back in the saddle again. My German skills were improving and I was in a good place. Not only that, but I felt that this was more important for my son than for me.
I rang the instructor’s door and asked about the possibility for my son to join this session of Spielgruppe. There was room for him in the group, but again I wasn’t getting a warm and fuzzy feeling.
The first couple of times went okay, other than my son throwing plastic balls across the room and pelting other children to the point where I wondered where he learned to play dodge ball.
But now the social aspect is making me feel awkward and frustrated again.
Today’s class started off rocky. I tried to arrive earlier because I always seem to be the last to show up… Those darn punctual Germans…last again. And I was five minutes early.
I got my son down from the harness, took off his jacket, and all the moms already had plastic canisters of bubbles in hand. You know, the long round tubes with lids?
Since I was last, I received what I call a dysfunctional bubble maker. It was an orange, round open-face saucer of sorts with a large blue, bubble-maker having several holes (it was about 3 to 4 inches in diameter).
The soapy water wasn’t cooperating and after the first three bubbles, I was no longer able to make anymore.
What the h@ll? I played the flute for eight d*mn years and never had any trouble blowing stupid, silly bubbles.
Needles to say, my son was immediately bored, tried to grab the saucer and when I wouldn’t let him have it started chasing other mom’s bubbles. (Ah-HAaaaa…other mom’s bubbles… sorry… okay… moving forward.)
Unable to have a hand free to manage the little guy, I panicked and thought I could dunk the bubble maker into the saucer, swish it into the air like you see on the commercials and distract my son with a bunch of glorious bubbles so he would come back.
What happened instead was a bunch of soapy water went flying onto the floor and across the room.
I looked up at the instructor with big eyes…I don’t think she knew what to say and at the same time I mumbled, “Sorry?” as she was saying, “It’s okay.”
Next it was time to bring out the floor mats. All the moms typically help move them into place, but because I don’t speak German, I don’t know where they should go.
I usually wait a moment, watch the first couple of moms, and then follow suit. And at the same time trying to keep an eye on my little one.
I shouldn’t compare myself to a deaf person, but sometimes I feel as though I have skimmed the surface of what it would feel like. (American Sign Language is even easier to learn than German. I’m not joking. It is.)
My son is a little older than some of the toddlers and a bit more aggressive. So, yes, most of the time is spent chasing him down and making him give back pacifiers which he has stolen, or moving him away from the slide so others can play too.
Also he has started temper-tantrums and a small meltdown occurred leaving me horrified as the other mothers looked on.
One mother who is always such a sweetheart tried to talk to me today, I’m assuming because she’s noticed I’m kind of just “there.” She had asked if I had registered my son for kindergarten yet…at least I think that’s what she asked.
And it was one of those unsuspecting moments where all I could think to say was, “Noch nicht.” (Not yet.) But then what else? Was that what she even asked? Duh-oh! You sounded so stupid. Couldn’t you think of anything else to say? She was trying to be nice.
Sometimes it’s just easier to keep my head down and pretend like I’m not really there so I don’t encounter a situation in which I don’t understand. Kind of like being in high school when the teacher starts to ask, “And who can tell me…?” and immediately everyone looks down while thinking, don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact.
I guess what frustrates me most is not knowing if what my son is doing fits into what is supposed to be happening during the class; I don’t know if I should be guiding him in another way or if he is okay to be set loose. What are the instructions? And where are the boundaries?
Although, chasing down your child is the perfect distraction to not having to try and converse…at least, that is what I tell myself.
After today’s class, so many thoughts are going through my head.
Am I being too sensitive? Should I try to talk more? Am I not focusing enough when instructions are given? Should I know what the instructor is saying? Am I chasing my son too much? Is my son too much of a distraction? Am I too much of a distraction?
But now, I’m at the point where I have to tell myself I am being too sensitive and I am worrying too much.
I will continue to go because I know it is good for my son, and most probably it will end up being good for me too. GGgggrrr! I still don’t see how this can be good for me.
But I do love that today during the songs at the end, my son was clapping his hands and finally became relaxed. He doesn’t care in what language the songs are or that his mommy is saying all the words wrong. And that’s all that matters to me.
Thankfully the weather is warming up, we can go outside, play with the other kids, and I don’t have to worry about understanding any instructions.