Have fun, or else!


Miriam engaging in some messy, unstructured playtime at the beach in Oregon

Miriam and I went to a new playgroup this morning. We are regulars at Library Storytime, and yesterday as we left, I noticed a sign for something called "Stay n'Play." It is held on Friday mornings, also at the library.

I assumed it was just an informal, drop-in kind of thing, where you could stay for as long or as short as you liked. So I was surprised this morning when I was greeted at the door by a sign-up sheet, information folder, and enthusiastic playgroup employee, of all things.

It turns out that it is a super-organized playgroup, where you actually pay to belong, although I didn't figure that out until later (Fortunately, the first visit is free. Phew!). In the beginning, I just sat down by a bunch of moms who were watching their kids play and yammering away in...Japanese. My lucky day! I asked them, in Japanese, if everyone in the group was from Japan. They were all quite surprised that I was speaking to them in Japanese. (Note: that kind of thing is really fun to do - casually addressing a foreign stranger in their native language. It happens to me all the time with Arabs at Fry's).

The playgroup was led by a grandma-type woman. She was very nice, but kept giving me pointers on how to play with my daughter. On the outside, I was smiling and nodding, but on the inside, I was thinking, "Lady, if there is anything I know how to do in this world, it is play with my 18-month-old."

Miriam had fun, of course, but I don't think we had a choice. We were all required to participate in every activity, sing along with every song, do the hand motions exactly right (well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little), etc. So I was already thinking I didn't want to join the group - and then I found out that it costs $30 per month. I think I have friends who will play with me for free, thank you very much.

Which brings me to why I like Storytime so much. It is loosely structured so that if Miriam is engaged, she's having a great time. If, on the other hand, she is wandering aimlessly around the room looking for electrical outlets, that's OK, too. The story leader doesn't bat an eye. That's my kind of playgroup!

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