The other day, I was thinking about how my needs often aren’t that different from my toddler.
Like toddlers, there are times when parents need to vent. We need to learn. We need our choices to feel validated. We need to socialize. And for all this, we need support.
I’m fortunate to have a loving, supportive family, but on weekdays it’s mainly the dynamic duo of Elise and I. And as much as I love my daughter, sometimes I need to talk with someone who can put together more than a four-word sentence.
My salvation? Family drop-in programs.
On weekday mornings, I often take Elise to Semiahmoo Family Place (SFP), a family resource centre in South Surrey, or to a StrongStart BC program in Cloverdale. The two early learning programs – the first a non-profit with a nominal fee and the latter a program funded by the Ministry of Education – have become a regular part of my schedule, places we go to without second thought.
From our first day we were warmly welcomed and made to feel at home by the educators, not to mention the fellow moms, dads and caregivers who bring their babies, toddlers and preschool-aged children to the programs.
Nowadays when my daughter and I leave our house in the morning, I look forward to finding out what familiar faces I’ll see that day. And I noticed, while sending out e-vites for Elise’s second birthday, that many of my friends are new within the past year. These are fellow moms I’ve met through SFP and StrongStart and with whom I now make play dates outside the programs.
Elise and I would have a bad case of ennui – or we would have spent a lot more money on other activities – if it weren’t for these two places.
And how sane would I be today without the people I’ve met there? Sitting with another mom who has gone through similar trials while our children do puzzles has done wonders for my mental well-being, which in turn makes me a better parent.
I might be a more attentive parent at these programs as well, a sentiment echoed in a conversation I had with another mom. At StrongStart, she noted, she’s not worried about dirty dishes and unwashed laundry and can devote her attention more fully to her daughter. Now, my impression of this mom is that she’s a great mom all the time. But I get her point. At home there are meals to be made, floors to be swept.
Of course, I wouldn’t take Elise if she didn’t look forward to it. She eagerly talks of seeing the educators at StrongStart and SFP (mentioning them often gets us out the door in a more timely fashion) and asks by name if her little friends will be there. She finds joy in dancing during circle time, attempting crafts, molding Play-Doh, and discovering new toys.
Pamphlets on community resources are also available at the programs, and the educators themselves are endless sources of information, even if it’s simply in watching how they interact with the children.
Semiahmoo Family Place and StrongStart BC have enriched my past year as a parent, and have surely positively impacted Elise’s development as well. I hope they continue to receive the support from the community and provincial government that they deserve.
Kristine Salzmann is a former Black Press reporter and mom to two-year-old Elise. She writes monthly for The Leader on parenting issues.