A bit of history. When my first child was 18 months old we went along to a kinder gym. I was lonely and it was a good way to meet up with my friends. But my son didn't want to do anything! He just wanted to be with me. And my friend's children were all off and independent - jumping on all the equipment while they chatted and had a coffee. I felt like a failure. And humiliated.
When my son was two we were invited to join a music class by a music teacher friend who wanted a group to practice with. I had a very small second baby at the time. It was a disaster. My son didn't want to participate. Wouldn't participate. Threw lots of tantrums. I felt humiliated by my failure.
When my son was three we joined a playgroup. He was toilet training - badly - at the time. More public humiliation. I gave up and decided it was less stressful to spend Wednesday mornings at home.
With my fourth child (also a boy) I decided to give a playgroup another go. He was 2 at the time and cried the whole way to playgroup each week because he didn't want to go. I felt so frustrated and annoyed at him. And humiliated by the endless tears he shed at the group.
There's a pattern here. Parenting was becoming so much about me and what I thought it should be like. What I wanted to do. What I should look like as a mother. And much less about my children and their personalities.
I was forced to totally slow down by my fourth child who is quite sensitive and didn't cope with large groups or too many new situations. I was forced to slow down because I was exhausted and getting dinner on the table each night was a major marathon. But it was good for me. Parenting became much more about my children and less about my agenda. I just think it forced me to actually hang out with my kids more and get to know them better.
I have had a regular attacks of the guilts over the years because having lots of kids has meant that I haven't been able to pull off the baby swimming lessons or the toddler gym or the preschooler music classes or the baby ballet. But it seems that all the years of the girls playing dress ups in the backyard or the boys cutting up random pieces of paper or the daughter performing endless concerts to imaginary people hasn't been a bad alternative.
Slow parenting. Sounds a lot better than ignoring your kids and letting them get on with it!