Comets, obviously. Wormholes, red dwarves, Saturn’s rings, the Oort Cloud.
Sorry, sorry, sorry. I’ve resorted to a cheap trick to suck you in: this is another kind of SPACE.
SPACE is a playgroup programme for first-time parents and their babies run nationwide by the Playcentre movement.
Some of the team at the Specialist Maternal Mental Health Service in Wellington have been part of a research project that found SPACE was a significant place for building resilience in parents and kids, particularly in vulnerable families.
They say it’s world-class. They strongly recommend that mothers with postnatal depression join, and raved about it to us, so I bravely went along.
I’m glad I did. The people have been welcoming and kind, and the sessions are well-run and helpful.
There’s group conversation, action songs, craft activities when the babies are young (like foot imprints and photo books) and a series of play activities as they get older.
After four months away, I was pretty apprehensive about going back today. We were a bit late getting ready (you know how it is) and as we headed out the door at midday I realised I hadn’t had breakfast, let alone lunch, and I had a near-flump and wasn’t at all sure about going.
But I knew it would be a good idea, theoretically, and my husband was coming as well, so I breathed slowly, ate a muesli bar, and we got there.
Well done me, eh? And well done everyone, because it was a really good afternoon, and I felt good about being back. They’re all just so nice.
Anyway, it was so good I wanted to write about it, so here we are. Six great things about SPACE.
This is the song we sing together to begin the sessions:
Hello Holly, kia ora Holly [the baby]
We are pleased to see you!
Hello Chris, kia ora Chris [the parent]
Pleased to see you too!
We go around the whole group, in remarkably good tune, and it’s lovely. There’s lots of waving and smiling and the babies look around in wonder. There should be more singing in the world, don’t you think?
Today, after a two-week break for the school holidays, we began with a catch-up, with everyone saying in turn what they’d been up to, and what their babies are doing now.
This could have turned into the worst kind of competitive one-upbabyship, but it really didn’t. In the group we have a fairly narrow age range, and the babies range from no teeth to eight teeth and from rolling to walking.
I realise I don’t know how everyone was feeling on the inside, but it seemed like all the parents were genuinely proud of each other’s babies and their progress, without any flavour of competitiveness.
And of course this is as it should be, but we parents are just as broken as anyone else and we easily trip into poor behaviour. It’s a real gift to be part of a group that is choosing community over competition.
In a group of a dozen or so families, it’s mostly Mums who come to SPACE, but we have two Dads who have been there every time I’ve been, and several others who have come occasionally. It’s good to have them there.
I’ve learned lots of new crazy kids’ songs.
Galoop Went the Little Green Frog has a line that says:
We all know frogs go
Well, I certainly didn’t know that before SPACE.
Now that many of the babies are mobile, there’s a lot of interaction between them, and between babies and other adults.
Today I had two babies on my knees at one point, and SBJ was befriended by several different parents as he toured the room.
It’s warming to see other parents interacting with your child and to watch the babies being adopted by a bunch of other kind people.
And this is how we end:
Goodbye Charlie, you’re such a lovely baby
Yes, we love you!
Goodbye Sophie, you’re such a lovely baby
Yes, we love you too!
How cool is that? And it really does seem true.
There are of course lots of different parent-child-group things around. If you’ve been involved in one, perhaps you could tell us what has been good about it?