In 1982, when my daughter, Sara, was eight months old, a beautiful park opened up in our neighborhood. We soon met other families with kids the same age and, within six months, put together a babysitting co-op with four families, including our own. I loved it when the kids were at my place. I was the only parent who did!
Not long after we started the co-op, urged on by the need for income, I called a neighbor who had a son a bit younger than Sara and proposed a playgroup. She jumped at it, called some friends, and, within a week, I had a playgroup with five 1-1/2-year-olds – two boys and three girls.
I thought it would be too hard for Sara to share me, so I found a small playgroup for her to go to during roughly the same hours, with kids her age. The space I created for the playgroup was separate from Sara’s room and I think this made it easier for her to accept it.
I honestly thought I would run the playgroup for one year. In June of this year I completed my 26th year. After that first year, I have had three girls and three boys in each of the groups, aged 2 to 2-1/2 years when they start in September. The groups meet for four hours in the morning and run from September to June. I have had an assistant for many years (including one amazing year with my daughter), and have had the honor of co-teaching with Kristen Ossmann for the past two years.
I am a visual artist as well. I’ve shown my work quite a lot over the years and, in 2000, received a Guggenheim Fellowship. The playgroup has always been another way of being creative and, in fact, informs my artwork. Very young children’s openness, their lack of self consciousness and desire to connect are just a few of the things that have helped me in my studio.
Along with my blog, I make home visits to help parents of toddlers talk through problems they are having, and to demonstrate ways to change the dynamics between parent and child and their siblings. This work has been especially rewarding, because it lets me help more families than the small number I get to work with in the playgroup every year.