My little girl is growing up! My baby is a baby no longer *sob*, for come Friday, she will be off to playschool for the very first time! Alright, so I'm going off the deep end as usual when it comes to melodrama because its not really a playschool, its a mummy baby group and I'll be accompanying her as well but I just wanted my moment. And it is a milestone in any case; my baby's first day at schoo...er the mummy baby group. I'd been toying with the idea of signing up for a mummy baby group for a few weeks now and last week I finally decided to take the plunge.
Flashback to a few months ago when I noticed that Nikki really enjoys being in the company of other children. From being completely oblivious to their presence, to slowly graduating to parallel play and then actively engaging with other kids, I realized that it would do her good to spend some time every day with kids her own age. I began by attempting to socialize with the other kids who live in our apartment complex. We live in a large society with multiple parks and there is a profusion of kids in Nikki's age group. I guess most of these kids have working parents because they're always accompanied by maids who're usually too busy cultivating their own social lives to really bother about their wards. Most of the times the kids are cooped up in their prams while the maids take endless rounds of the park, with their mobile phone or latest arm candy glued to their ear or hip, as the case may be. Anyway I decided I would make an attempt at socializing with some of the kids who looked like they were Nikki's age and with this noble intention in mind I approached one of the maids who was wheeling a little boy around in his pram and unlike the others, had neither mobile nor boyfriend attached to her. Now this is a maid I see everyday, I vaguely know the mother of the little boy and Nikki and the little boy have even played together a few times when the little boy was let lose in the garden as opposed to being wheeled around in his pram. I approached the maid, M, from behind with Nikki in her stroller. As I neared I saw her dart a quick glance at us over her shoulder and speed up. I quickened my own pace, hoping to catch up with her, but this just seemed to invoke mild panic in her because she started a semi jog, jiggling the pram in front of her.
"Hey!" I yelled surprised at this strange behavior, and then a more polite "Excuse me!"
M cast a resentful look over her shoulder but slowed down and glared at me. " We just wanted to say Hi to S(the little boy's name)" I said a little breathlessly, catching up with her."Nikki doesn't have too many friends here, so I thought it would be nice for S and Nikki to play together, they're almost the same age" I proffered by way of explanation but this just elicited more resentful glares. By now however S & Nikki had discovered each others presence and were beginning to babble interestedly and swat at each others prams. S had a stuffed camel in his hand which he handed to Nikki with a benign smile. She grabbed it excitedly and said a shy 'thankoo' followed by an excited "Hi!" as an afterthought. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
"Do you want to put S down in the lawn for sometime?" I asked M "They'll be able to play together better there."
"You want me to go with you in the garden?!" she asked in a horrified voice, casting a few more alarmed looks over her shoulder.
"No!" I replied feeling a little alarmed myself "We can let S and Nikki play there for a bit, while we watch over them."
She mumbled something incomprehensible under her breath but dumped S unceremoniously in the garden anyway. He looked super excited at this unexpected burst of freedom and delighted to be out and about began scampering around happily. I plonked Nikki down in the garden as well and watched as she and S began playing a little game of what looked like catch the camel with each other amidst much delighted giggling. It took me a while to realize that M had suddenly disappeared into thin air, taking the pram with her. Surprised I was scouring the park for her when she reappeared just as suddenly, with S's mother in tow. S's mother approached me with a frosty smile. "Hi" she said coldly "You're Nikki's mom right?"
"That's right" I smiled back at her.
"Actually M just told me that you were trying to offer her a job at a higher salary than what I'm giving her now" S's mom went on in a bitter voice. "Look please don't try to poach my maid, its really difficult getting a good maid here and I've found M with great difficulty. She's a huge help because she takes S off my hands for a couple of hours everyday and at least I am able to get some time to myself...."
"Dude I wasn't trying to poach your maid!" I snapped, exasperated. "I was just trying to get S and my daughter to play together since they happen to be the same age."
"Oh?" said S's mom looking completely foxed, "but then why did you ask M to join you for a walk in the garden?"
"This society is full of weirdos and psychopaths!" I complained to P when he got back from work later that day, "I tried to socialize with some of the other kids here today and got mistaken for a stalker and a poacher of maids! I want to relocate!"
"Doesn't Nikki have any friends?" P asked mildly. After more than a decade of togetherness, my histrionics are usually like water off a duck's back.
"I don't know too many people here with kids" I went on wallowing in self pity "I do know a few people and we try and catch up sometimes but it all happens on a very ad hoc basis as a result of which Nikki is being deprived of the company of other kids. She'll grow up to be a lonely, reclusive child with no friends!"
"Well why don't you join a mother toddler program? There are a few playschools in the vicinity which offer those programs for babies of Nikki's age."
"Maybe she'll be chronically shy...maybe she'll never have any close friends" I went on, beginning to enjoy the wallowing, "Eh, what's that you said? A mother toddler program?"
And so it was that the last week saw me scouting for the perfect mother toddler program in playschools in our neighborhood. My first stop was an 'International' playschool, very close to where we live which is housed in a beautiful bungalow with a lovely lawn overflowing with masses of gulmohar and jasmine. The security guard let me in only after liberally spritzing me with hand sanitizer and a thorough examination of my handbag and I went in feeling mighty impressed. The feeling lasted for all of two minutes, before I was let into an office and came face to face with a weary looking woman screeching on the phone to someone as a bunch of kids milled about her. "Oh hello!" she said catching sight of me and sighed in the manner of one who would much rather be a million miles away. "Let me tell you all about our mother toddler program. We have a state of the art, world class facility and the latest infrastructure where we nurture our children in a loving, secure environment."
She stopped and beamed at me, looking a little surprised when I continued looking at her expectantly.
"Er that sounds great" I said in what I hoped was an enthusiastic voice. "So what do you do exactly in the mother toddler program?"
"Huh?" she seemed a little annoyed at this random question. "Oh the program! Hmmm, yes we follow the Reggio Emilia approach, you know, not the Montessori one so we are far superior to the other playschools around."
"Um okay. But what do you DO exactly? You know, the activities in the mother toddler program?" I asked again.
"Oh that" she waved a disdainful hand in the air "well the usual, you know. Peek-a-boo, some music and singing. There really isn't much you can do with kids in that age group!"
Which is precisely why I'm going to pay through my nose to come to your silly playschool, said the little voice in my head. I asked a few more questions, received a few more drab replies and left the place feeling a little frustrated. The lady in question, and she was a teacher in the school, seemed either clueless or thoroughly disinterested about most things and the only thing 'International' I had noted in the school were the fees. That and the Nepali cleaner and Bangladeshi watchman on their staff.
I decided to try a different playschool. A simple, homely one where hopefully the focus would be less on the fancy stuff and more on letting the kids there have a good time.I had heard of one such school which seemed to fit the bill and I made my way there. It looked lovely; it was simple and had a warm, cosy feel and I found myself warming up to the enthusiastic headmistress, who looked rather like a pleasant bumble bee.That was till she handed me a flyer for the mother toddler program. 'Mother Toddler Program!' it screamed in a hideous shade of ochre. 'Instills Competition Spirit! Sportive Attitude! Global Diginity! (whatever that means!) Parental Advise!' and best of all, once a year the 'Free Helth Camp for Full Family!'
I staggered out and speed dialed P. "We're going to have to home school our kids" I informed him gravely. "In some far off place perhaps, where there aren't too many people. Maybe Tasmania? I always wanted to go to Tasmania."
Vision of myself in a pristine, beautiful meadow, by a murmuring brook with Nikki as I gently point out the beauty of nature, the colors and shapes and sounds that surround us. With a nursery rhyme thrown in perhaps.
"...so why don't you check it out" P's voice rudely interrupted my gentle reverie.
"Huh? What?" I barked into the phone.
"Why don't you check out School X?" repeated P patiently, "Its a popular chain, its well known, a colleague's kid goes there and I've heard good stuff about it."
"Hmph" I snorted, but went off to check the school anyway. Popular chain indeed, I was sure it would be as bad as, if not worse than the two other schools I had just seen. I found myself grudgingly admiring the exterior as I reached. Sure it was not as swanky as the International Playschool but it had a charm of its own. It was spacious and airy with bright cheerful rooms and a lovely play area for the kids. I met with the headmistress who took me through the carefully planned program they had structured for the mother toddler program. And then she showed me the most fantabulous library with the awesome selection of books for toddlers ever. And you could even take them home as part of the library program! She also showed me around the school, the kids there seemed to be having a great time, the teachers all seemed great, I was sold!
After a discussion with P we decided to sign up for the program and this Friday is when we start. Here's to new and happy beginnings and hopefully some new friends for Nikki!