I have tried to suppress my memories of awkward school playground moments wondering who to play with. I do remember however praying night after night for a good friend who I could be with at break and lunch times – it all worked out in the end and I had some brilliant childhood friends. More and more recently though I have found myself revisiting these memories. When I go to pick up my daughter, who’s in reception, from school, I find myself in that awkward playground moment once again. It’s like I have de-ja-vu. It’s like groundhog day. I stand awkwardly looking at my phone or being particularly attentive to my small son. I pretend not to notice the clusters of others – laughing, with their ‘in-jokes’ and their posh buggies. I don’t know how to make friends – how to break into the cliques and I don’t know that I have the emotional energy to do so. Don’t get me wrong I know a couple of people and I do try to strike up conversations with others but the pervasive culture is one of ‘the it crowd’ and I feel so different. I feel absolutely exposed and vulnerable.
A couple of weeks ago I chatted to one Mum who spent our entire conversation assuming I wouldn’t be working. Many of the mums don’t work and that is fine with me, but I can’t be the same as them. I haven’t got time to hang around the playground from 2 just to ‘catch-up’ with other mums. Nick and I work 6 out of 7 nights a week between us at the moment so I can’t go for a ‘girl’s night out’ with the reception mums. I work during the day so I can’t do lunch.
Now I have great friends outside of the school playground scenario and I’m not necessarily looking for life-long bosom buddies, but I worry that not being part of the gang will affect my girl. We don’t get the posh hand-made party invites. I stand looking on as the token ‘thank you’ cards are passed out from the child’s birthday party on the previous weekend. I worry my girl will miss out because I am the awkward one in the playground.
I find myself thinking again and again maybe I should just try to be like them. Maybe I should prepare a little longer before heading out to the school gate – maybe I should show my hair more than just a glance at a hair-brush. Maybe I should invest in some real Uggs, an enormous ‘Kidston’ and a snazzy ‘Quinny’. Maybe I should be at home preparing tea for the entire day, or dusting the house (to be honest it needs it!) or meeting others for lunch. Maybe my ideals about bringing up my children, working and sharing things with Nick are just that – ideals. Maybe I should put all that on-hold in order to further my girl’s chances of being popular. Maybe then, just maybe, I might get an affirming look or my girl that allusive birthday party invite.
So I have this dilemma do I pretend to be something I am not – a ‘yummy mummy’ who seeks to make friends with people who’s only commonality is being a parent? Or do I struggle through being me – happily letting my daughter dress up as a dragon for ‘world book day’ rather than being another Princess – but risking her being without social invites and perhaps friends? I know, I know I am probably over-reacting about this all. The playground scenarios from my childhood have cast a shadow that has blurred my perception of all this. I think I am going back to the praying for a good friend thing!