Edmonds Kind of Play: Parent support groups for moms and dads

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Serena Williams is on the cover of the February issue of Vogue holding her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.. The cover promises Williams’ thoughts on “Motherhood, Marriage, and Making Her Comeback” and the caption on the cover reads “The Emotions Are Insane.”

I think this is a huge deal, not only for Williams to not sugarcoat her experience, but for such a fancy magazine, usually full of things so many don’t have access to, to lead with something so many of us feel. Even in this era of more honest tales of parenting, thanks to a lot of brave women like Brooke Shields and the era of Mommy Blogs, typically when I see articles like this, I get that sinking feeling that I am going to read all about how the featured celebrity loves the chaos of parenthood. Even as a parent firmly entrenched in the school ages, when I see someone so strong as Serena Williams — who won a Grand Slam Title while in her first trimester while I actually developed a dent in the side of my couch from resting my head in my hand while sitting SO much, makes me take one of those deep breaths that feels like you got some kind of old, stagnant air out of the bottom of your lungs. Not just for me, especially considering my list of privileges, but for those who don’t get this kind of representation and all of the women going through it now and about to go through it who don’t have the super flowery experience we often see portrayed.

What a gift from someone who is in great shape, mentally strong enough to play against her sister, and with her financial resources to come out and talk about the “low moments” and how she’s broken down “I don’t know how many times.” She also talks to Vogue about “the pressure you feel” in regards to parenting, which is truly remarkable if you think about the high-pressure situations she has been in on a global stage.

With eyes still puffy from a combination of tears during Oprah’s Golden Globes speech and this week’s episode of “This Is Us” watched on the DVR days after it aired, I felt even more desire than normal to share Serena Williams’ words with you and let you know that a lot of us are flipped out by parenting, even the ones that are not flipped out as a rule. What has helped me the most is other parents — mainly women for me. This came from people at work with older kids, people I’ve met at school pick-up, Moms I’ve met on message boards or at parks, and support from pre-kid friends from back home over phone calls turned emails now texts. It can be a lot of work to build your “village”; it’s certainly taken some to build the different incarnations of mine. So I wanted to give you some great, local, options that are free or have scholarships available.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, a woman in my office asked me if I was going to join a PEPs group. I had no idea what she was talking and in hindsight, I wished I would have looked into it. What I know now is that PEPS is short for Program for Early Parent Support and is an incredible local resource. The organization promotes social connections, secure attachment, parental resilience, knowledge of parenting and child development, and awareness of concrete resources supporting families. Though the Newborn PEPs groups are shared between the homes of the families, some of the South Snohomish County options are held at the Verdant Community Wellness Center across from Freddy’s on 196th in Lynnwood.

PEPS offers full and partial scholarships and other meetups have a “pay what you can” option  Also due to a grant from Verdant Health Commission, those who live in Hospital District 2 get a roughly 60-percent reduction in PEPS fees. I just spoke with Jennifer Piplic, Director of Marketing and Communications at Verdant Health Commission, and she let me know that a Baby Peppers group, those ages 5 to 12 months, is currently meeting at the Wellness Center and that as needed, PEPS adds classes to their schedule. When I had my second child, I took a Little Peppers class for older siblings and new babies, and it was an incredible relief to see most of the older siblings losing their minds in the fashion mine was after the new baby came home.

If a group isn’t being offered in South Snohomish County, there are many options within a drive including classes for a second infant, and classes for the second infant and older child who is 3 and under. There are also groups/events focused on being a dad and there will be a local offering next month. Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Diamond Knot Brewpub in Mountlake Terrace there will be a “Diary of a Wimpy Dad” event discussing traditional definitions of men and fathers. You can find information on this and all other PEPS classes at PEPS.org.

In talking to Piplic about the Williams cover (I kinda won’t shut up about it), she reminded me of the two FREE drop-in “Play and Learn” classes in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. Parents and children, from birth to 5 years old, are invited to join the group for “fun activities, gross motor play, and circle time,” all which are designed to foster your child’s development. These classes are offered Tuesdays at the Mountlake Terrace Library from 10 to 11 a.m. and Fridays at the Verdant Wellness Center, also from 10 to 11 a.m.. For more information on the “Play and Learn” group you can call 206-364-3777.

Another way to be around other parents and children at no cost is library storytimes. Between all the local libraries, there are many different options of ages and times. In looking up the Play and Learn group at the MLT Library, I see that they even have a Russian Storytime option, with songs and stories in Russian. The Edmonds Library has Ready Reader Storytimes for babies (0-18 months,) toddler (19 to 35 months) and preschoolers (3- to 5-year-olds.)

Last year, when my friends’ son was in the baby group, I tagged along for a bit and it was just how I’d remembered it. Parents with overfilled bags and strollers watching their kids learn the push/pull of sharing space with others while exploring the library toys in that way that kids do with toys that aren’t the ones you have at home. These classes served as a good way for me to be around other people with children when my work schedule allowed for it and they also were a good barometer of what kinds of other classes my kids were ready for. Plus, the price is right! For more information or to find a storytime that fits for you, check out the Sno-Isle Classes & Events Page.

In looking back around for other parent resources, I was reminded about Snohomish County Mothers of Multiples or SNOMOMS. I learned about SNOMOMS from a mom I met in my Little Peppers group, who ironically started our first meeting by saying her son was very likely going to be an only child. Fast forward to the “I’m pregnant… with twins” phone call I got the following summer. SNOMOMS describes themselves as an organization that offers a wide variety of educational, social, emotional, and practical support for families during all stages of their “multiples” experience. The group offers monthly meetups and members also enjoy the benefit of buying and selling used baby clothes and gear within the club at clothing and equipment garage sales. I remember hearing about a these sales from another friend who had multiples; funny enough, I met her at a Little Peppers baby shower for my friend, after my friend met her through SNOMOMS! To read more about the group or to join you can visit the SNOMOMS website or Facebook Page.

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two young boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can find her on Twitter trying to make sense of begging kids to ”just eat the mac n cheese”

One Reply to “Edmonds Kind of Play: Parent support groups for moms and dads”

  1. There is a lot of pressure to live up to expectations as parents. Groups like PEPS help a lot.

    You do a real service to tell mothers about groups like PEPS. Pressure to be the perfect parents is out there. As a teacher and mother of three I am sorry that we don’t seem to see much encouragement of simple things parents can do like sitting a child on your lap or next to you and reading to them. Even ten minutes a day can do wonders. Books are pretty cheap and the library is very available.

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