I have a new job. It involves working out of office hours, every day is different and best of all I get paid in love. I am finding that since our move an increasingly large percentage of my time is dedicated to finding new ways of keeping my energetic (uhum, major understatement) one year old son entertained day in day out. It may sound ridiculous, but on more than one occasion in recent weeks I find myself glued to my computer screen at 2am crawling every Barcelona kids website for new and fun things to do and this quest for entertainment seems to be so all consuming I fear any hopes for finding a ‘proper’ full-time job are fast slipping away.
This all stems from the same nagging questions I am sure many other mums have: ‘is my child getting enough stimulation?’; ‘how can I get someone else to entertain the joy of my life so I can switch off for an hour?’ How anyone begins to answer these questions (well the first one anyway) let alone fulfil them is quite beyond me, but for now I am determined to try and keep his weekly ‘schedule’ both fun-filled and mildly educational where he learns more than the daily mantra of ‘ Lucas DO NOT PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH.’ So, in my bid for multiple day fillers, I have been attending playgroups, music classes and anything else that sounds like it might consume our time beyond the supermarket and trips to the post-office (increasingly unhealthy online shopping habit). Back in the child-abundant borough of Hammersmith & Fulham I had my pick of baby massage, rhyme time, mummy and baby yoga, sensory toddler time , baby flower pressing- well OK I made that last one up, but I am sure it exists somewhere and if not I’m claiming it for myself. In Barcelona the kids classes seem to be few and far between compared to our former West London home (one wise lady did rather smugly point out to me ‘when you have 340 days of sunshine why would you be stuck indoors in a town hall when you could be playing on the beach’) but I have remained dedicated to my new job and like any enthusiastic new starter I have been thorough in my search of finding things to do with Lucas. Whilst playing on the beach is a great way to fill our days, I can’t help but feel he needs that all-important social interaction everyone harps on about and ‘help with his development’ that seemingly comes from organised activities, plus it’s a great way to meet other mums so on a purely selfish level it’s a plus for me!
My first attempt of an organised activity required a lot of self-input – which quite frankly totally defied one of the main purposes of attending these classes for me, as I am looking for someone else to keep my son entertained for an hour or so while I enjoy the luxury of daydreaming about a quiet dinner for two in a sophisticated restaurant which doesn’t provide placemats that can be coloured in with big fat crayons. Upon arrival at the cultural centre (I was lured in by the thought of introducing some culture to my one year old) myself and my new mummy friend (just to clarify she is a new friend who also happens to be a mummy) bounded up to the front desk full of excitement asking to attend the baby singing class – in mix of Spanglish might I add. The slightly bemused staff came back with a look that gave us the impression perhaps we had the wrong day or we were indeed at the wrong cultural centre. However, after some lost in translation issues were resolved they very kindly handed over a set of keys and directed us to the appropriate room. Strange we thought, why would they give us the keys? Surely the teacher is in the class having arrived 45 minutes earlier to prepare what is sure to be a magical world for our kids to be transported to. Hmmm, I fear my expectations of this organised activity may have been slightly amiss. After waiting for around 10 minutes in a large empty room another mother turned up who promptly informed us this was the class and it was down to the mums to sing and dance and entertain the kids. Ah, ok then. Definitely not meeting my expectations so far. My initial thought was it would usually take a few glasses of wine before I start to voluntarily sing and dance in public which I don’t think would be appropriate in this setting (I’m sure neither did the other mums upon my suggestion), but we then decided to make the most of what had turned out to be an afternoon of free room hire. The space did have some kids furniture and random mattresses and so my new mummy friend (this is how we shall refer to her from now on) was very MacGyver-esque and created a make-shift obstacle course for the kids which they loved. The kids played, mums chatted about a first baby roll-over and before I knew it I found myself serenading everyone with one of Lucas’s favourite nursery rhymes 10 in the Bed. What do you know, put some mums and kids in a large empty space and eventually you will indeed find yourself in a music class – teacher or no teacher.
I am pleased to report that one of the more positive outcomes of the disorganised-organised activity was one of the mums letting us know of a music class where there is an actual leader and some sort of order. I use the word order loosely here people, as I have come to realise any gathering of 0-3 year olds descends pretty quickly into utter chaos where often I find myself looking around the room to spot the other mums who have the ‘how did I find myself here’ face and burst into fits of hysterical laughter. Granted, this is often only me, but hey if you don’t laugh you’ll cry right? I find myself using this phrase more and more often as a parent.
This class turned out to be a big hit and was at yet another, believe it or not, cultural centre. I think at the current rate of exposure I am giving my boy to cultural centres Lucas will develop his appreciation of fine art and opera at a very early age – you’re welcome Daddy. For those readers (if there are in fact any of you left) who reside in the Barcelona area the class is at Casal de Barri Pou Figuera on a Wednesday afternoon and run by a great pair who come along with oodles of energy and the all-important bundle of patience to run such a class. There is a singing session at the start of the class (have to admit now I missed this part as I was characteristically late) but my new mummy friend informed me, and then a storytelling session aided by props and a lovely bearded man who plays guitar throughout the whole session. I’m sure he too often wonders ‘how did I find myself here’, but if he indeed does he hides it very well. The session runs for 45 minutes and at the end the kids get to choose an instrument and play along, but to be honest if you still have any control of your child by this point you’re doing well. The session starts at 5.15pm (my kinda city) and by 6pm there were kids in corners crying (mums too I’m sure), some screaming, sugar-high little ones running riot and frantic looking primary caretakers (term that seems to cover all childcare options) trying to rally the troops to get home. The storyteller does a great job of entertaining, even amongst the rising chaos, and at the end of the class puts out a box for contributions. I wasn’t sure whether to throw in some cash or a copy of the local paper job listings at this point for the brave souls – but a hearty pat on the back at the very least was well deserved for the storytelling/musical duo. They are certainly doing something right as the class is very popular and I will definitely be back.
Jury is still out on how much these classes are aiding Lucas’s development and the all-important social skills, but if it means I get an extra 45 minute daydream time into my day it’s a yay from me…