The End of An Era


This week, all of our little activities are ending for the summer. We've been going to playgroup and music class since Claire was six months old, but we won't be resuming either in the fall. Having those two activities on the calendar each week was a huge blessing in my adjustment to motherhood. I met lots of great friends in both groups and absolutely loved their music teacher. I'm sure we'll keep in touch, but it's sad thinking these friends will be choosing all kinds of schooling options for kindergarten. As hard as the early years of parenthood are, I know I'm going to miss the freedom we have right now and hope to really savor the next year.

We'll be applying what we previously spent on music class to Claire's preschool tuition. At first I thought I could still lead the church playgroup, but I quickly realized it would just be too much. It meets from 10:00 to 11:30 and Claire's preschool starts at 12:00, so there would be no time for her to eat lunch, not to mention squeezing in a morning nap for Betsy. I got really stressed just thinking about how to handle those logistics and knew it was time to step down.

There are so many different directions to go in with a church playgroup, but I thought I would share what we did over the two years I was in charge, just in case anyone out there is looking for ideas!

Weekly morning meetings. We met every Wednesday, at the church nursery during the school year and at a neighborhood park during the summer. The kids played and the moms chatted. When bickering and whining ensued about halfway through the meeting, we gave the kids a snack of goldfish or animal crackers, which somehow allowed them to reset and continue playing happily. We had lots of great discussions about NFP, raising children in the faith, and all sorts of Catholic topics you would never dare to bring up at a secular play date.

Service projects. Once a month, we assembled sack lunches for the homeless. A street evangelist who works with our parish would pick them up and pass them out on his rounds. A couple people would bring sandwiches, someone would bring chips, another would bring fruit, and so on. This was set up by the previous leader and was super easy to keep going. We also tried to organize a bigger service project for Advent and Lent. We played Secret Santa for a family in need, we donated children's books to the library at my sister's orphanage, and we assembled food boxes for needy elementary students during school breaks. The food boxes were very similar to sack lunches, just on a larger scale. Someone brought oatmeal, someone brought applesauce, etc.

Prayer. The previous playgroup leader tried to lead us through a mediation each meeting. It was constantly interrupted by small children and I personally found it pretty stressful. When I took over, I thought maybe we should take advantage of our wonderful perpetual adoration chapel and encouraged everyone to stop in and pray with their kids for a few minutes before or after the meeting. I got this okayed by our priest and the scheduled adorers. No one really took advantage of this, myself included, so we discontinued it after a semester. For the next year and a half, we pretty much just said grace before the kids' snack. If I was going to be in charge again next year, I would take another stab at prayer. Leading group prayer isn't really my strong suit, especially when I'm distracted by watching my children. I think the key for me would be focusing prayer around the kids, maybe by saying a decade of the rosary with them or teaching them hymns.  

Evening book club. We've always tried to read a parenting or spiritual book each semester. Before I was in charge, we discussed the book during our regular morning meetings but, again, I found the constant interruptions by small children stressful. So, I started a monthly evening book club instead. I brought dessert and wrote an outline or discussion questions for the assigned chapters. We read The Temperament God Gave Your Kids, The 5 Love Languages of Children, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Beyond the Birds & the Bees. I hoped moving the discussion to the evening would also allow working moms or moms with older children to attend, but overall this didn't have the attendance I would have liked. I'm not really sure why. If I was leading the group again next year, I would see if there's more interest in a different mom's night out activity. Maybe bunco or just praying a holy hour together and then going out for ice cream.

Speakers. The admissions director for our parish school came in to talk with us and then I asked a few very gracious homeschooling friends to come in as well. These events were both really popular and made me wish we could organize speakers more often. My next idea would be to invite a teacher to talk about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but I wouldn't really know where to go from there.  

New baby meals. What would a playgroup be without providing meals for each other when new babies arrive? I would usually set up the meal schedule and all of our regular attendees would quickly fill it up. I was so grateful to be on the receiving end of this when Betsy arrived in February.

Outings. At the end of each school year we went out for lunch at a favorite pizza place. Occasionally, we met for other outings, like to a jumping place in the winter or a farm park in the summer. Whenever I remembered, I tried to email the group when our family was going to an event, like the kids' concerts at a local beach.

On average, I probably only spent an hour a week organizing things behind the scenes, but I wish I had asked other members to head up various aspects of the group. In hindsight, it would have been great to have a service coordinator, prayer coordinator, etc. Even though we have over a dozen regular attendees, it was harder than I expected to find someone to take over. I wonder if that's because no one really felt any ownership in the group.

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