Social Awkwardness and the School Run

So Monkey started school last week and there are big changes in store for him and for all of us. He did so well and is loving school. I am getting used to the school run but I have never looked forward to the whole playground mums thing. The social etiquette, the cliques and just figuring out how to navigate it all makes me very nervous.

I’m not the most socially confident person. I wouldn’t call it shyness really, more a social awkwardness. In certain situations I can hide it. I can make small talk, I can strike up a bit of a conversation with another parent at play area or baby group. I can be polite and friendly. But in a bigger group I find that much much harder. And taking it beyond politeness and small talk and I really falter. It’s one of the reasons I don’t feel I’ve connected with many bloggers and why you won’t find me at a blogging event. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m terrified I will say something stupid. That people will sort of “see through me” and put simply, won’t like me. So in general I keep people at a certain distance.

I’ve always been a little like this but it has gotten worse over recent years, in part due to the disintegration of my friendship with the girls I at one time considered my closest friends. The breakdown of any relationship can leave scars and this one definitely did. I’m not going to go into all the why’s and wherefores. I know I wasn’t blameless but I also know it wasn’t entirely my fault. It was a disintegration that happened over the course of a few stressful years, in the run up to my wedding, immediately after it, all throughout my difficult pregnancy with Monkey and through those hard first months with him.

Whenever we arranged to meet up I would be anxious in the days beforehand and generally have a sleepless night the night before, imagining all that could go wrong, what I would say that would provoke that response. The meet up itself would never be quite as bad as I feared but there would be barbs and thinly veiled insults that I would then relive for days wondering what I could have said or done differently. Wishing I had the guts to give as good as I got. These were my closest friends. Nuts eh? It just wasn’t healthy and eventually I walked away.

The trouble is that they were so ready and willing to see the worst in me. To believe the worst. It made me question myself, to question if I really was this awful person they seemed to believe me to be. These were some of my oldest friends, surely they knew me better than that? Or was I really, actually like that?

Thankfully they weren’t my only friends and I grew much closer to some of my other friends who had kids around the same time. Friends who couldn’t understand what was going on and who dubbed the others my “frenemies.” Friends who thankfully like me the way I am and don’t make me second guess myself all the time.

It’s all about 4 years ago now and I have moved on, I’m no longer terrified of running into them or seeing them somewhere. But it has affected me a lot. I struggle to let anyone in and am constantly worried about saying the wrong thing to a friend and the same thing happening again. One of my newest close mummy friends went a bit funny with me recently and I over analysed everything and thought I had ruined another friendship. Faced with those feelings I do one of 2 things, I try and over compensate for what I think I have done wrong… Or I back off completely to try and maintain a bit of pride and sort of not show I care. It turned out my friend’s dad was ill and she was very worried about him. I of course supported her and kicked myself for assuming the worst and assuming it was about me. But that’s what I do.

During those few days (which were also in the run up to Monkey starting school) I had a dream where I was talking about it to my brothers and they laughed in my face and said “yeah but that’s what you’re like isn’t it? You always say the wrong thing!” and it was horrible. I felt so rubbish and I don’t think they do actually think that about me but subconsciously I clearly do. It’s so annoying and self-defeating and self-centred to always make things about me and to assume it is always my fault and I try really hard to break the cycle but it isn’t easy.

I was supposed to meet up with a very lovely blogger recently and we couldn’t make it unfortunately due to various reasons and I have to admit that much as I wanted to meet up and get to know her, part of me was relieved. I was so worried she wouldn’t like me or that I would say something stupid and we wouldn’t get on.

The school run means challenges like this daily and I guess just reminds me of my anxieties. There are 60 kids in Monkey’s intake and though they are split into 2 classes, they are all sharing the same huge foundation stage area. So that’s 60 sets of parents I will see twice a day, every school day, for the next year, and beyond. As I said I can do the smile and small talk (even though doing so makes me feel horribly uncomfortable)… But not beyond that. I know some of the mums of Monkey’s preschool friends, but not many. Even there I struggled to have the confidence to talk to any of the groups of mums who already knew each other and it’s even worse now. There are so many opportunities for me to make a complete idiot of myself!

Ive umm-ed and ah-ed about whether to actually post this post as it feels quite self indulgent and wasnt really the post I intended to write when I started out. I don’t think I had realised how my apprehension of the school run and the social etiquette of the playground had  brought back all my feelings of inadequacy to the extent that it has. Maybe I needed to write this as some sort of cathartic experience and then move on. I was chatting to a lovely mum when I dropped Monkey off earlier and nthing terrible happened… I don’t have to be best friends with these people immediately, if ever so the lesson to me is to stop wrrying so much!

Does the school run make you nervous? Are you a social butterfly of the playground?

13 thoughts on “Social Awkwardness and the School Run

  1. I think you’ve hit it on the head in saying you don’t have to be best friends with these people immediately, and in remembering that you’ll see them twice a day for many years to come. Playground relationships have got so much time to grow, so many opportunities, from drop offs to workshops to parties and play dates. My girl’s in year two and I’ve been lucky to form some solid friendships and am also still developing new ones as her friends circle develops. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and know that you are lovely, it’ll come in time x

  2. What a really good post – I am sure it was sort of hard to write as it is quite personal. Nobody I know would call me shy or lacking in confidence, I am quite chatty but I feel a huge amount of apprehension with new people and situations. I’ve never gone to any baby and toddler groups because I think it would be too much work and I dread being left in the corner by myself! So I feel your anxiety, but all you can do is try small talk and hopefully you will click with some nice parents!

  3. I’ve got a couple of years yet but I have to admit to thinking about this sometimes already and worrying! I have to make a lot of small talk, etc, with people I don’t know for work which is hard, but ultimately it feels like an act because it’s my work persona rather than ‘me’. The school run will be a whole different ball game. I think the key is just to take it slowly, and not compare the relationships you have with those of other people at the gates – what seems to be isn’t always what is, anyway, on that score! :) #thetruthabout

  4. I’ve been doing the school run for 11 years in total…I hate it but I’ve got used to it. I do have a few mummy friends in the school yard but they are not always there due to work and I am left standing alone but I don’t mind…I’m a shy person and I’m not good at talking to people I don’t know well….
    I joined the school PTA a few years back which did help make a few friends…It is also a lot of fun too helping out at school :D

  5. Funny that you should write a post about the school run too! I find it really hard to imagine anyone taking a dislike to you – you come across as a really lovely, kind, thoughtful person and I’m sure that whatever caused your friends to become ‘frenemies’ must have been something blown out of all proportion. Anyway, as Jocelyn says (and I think my own post is trying to say), getting to know people on the school run is a work in progress which will carry on through months and years. The people who are chatting to one another at the very beginning are doing so because they already knew each other, not because they are much more socially adept than the rest of us! Parties, play-dates and eventually things like Beaver scouts or other after school activities as well as being drawn together with the mums of other children who Monkey has an affinity with should all gradually build a network and hopefully you won’t feel the need to yearn for better social skillz any more:-) Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout hon Xx

  6. As I said on Sam’s post, I feel very similar. It took me years to get used to it and now I kind of sit on the sidelines – but that is where I am happy if I am honest. It was only in Grace’s last term of her last school that I really got involved, and then she moved! Now though, she walks to and from school on her own so I don’t have to worry about all of this. I completely understand where you are coming from. #TheTruthAbout

  7. Gosh, what a horrible experience you had in the past with your old friends. I can understand why it left you scarred. As for the school run, I’m used to it now. That said, being a stay at home does not make it any easier when trying to make mum friends! #truthabout

  8. What struck me is that you said there are 60 sets of parents to run into twice a day. That’s actually a great thing! 60 is a large number. They are worried about their own things and how they present themselves and what the teacher thinks of them and how their son is doing in school and worrying that someone noticed their daughter having a screaming fit on the playground. They will take a lot less notice of you than you think. I don’t mean that in a rude way, but as an encouragement to say don’t spend too much time worrying what they think, because they may not be thinking much at all – they have too much else on the brain!
    I do know the social awkwardness though, I feel ya! I joined our preschool exec board and everyone seems to get on so well and chat amongst themselves and I just sort of sit there waiting for the meeting to start wondering how they all became such good friends so instantly. It’s hard, but I’m glad you got new friends to replace the frenemies!!! #bestandworst

  9. I had the same thing happen to me – where things just didn’t work out between and my best friend. She moved to Germany and dropped all communication with me, and, after crying, I’ve dealt with it. She was in the habit of dropping friends and it doesn’t mean that I did anything wrong. It just sucks. But it has definitely made a lasting impression on how I feel when trying to create/find new friends. I always hold back and think twice before saying something. I always worry. Hopefully you are able to conquer these feelings of inadequacy and make new friends with your child’s friend’s moms. There are sincerely great people in the world; I’m just sorry that your previous best friends weren’t some of them. :( #bestandworst

  10. I had no idea you felt like this at all hun as I would never have guessed. You seem just like Caroline and I would never even think about the saying the wrong thing! I can see though how a bad experience with friends can make you feel apprehensive and I must admit, as I will be only doing the school run twice a week, I wonder if I will feel left out!! I think take your time, see how you feel with people and you will just “know”. I felt like that with my NCT group. They are all lovely but only 1 I feel truly comfy with! Good luck and thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

  11. I remember feeling exactly the same about the school run when my eldest started school, I have anxiety and I overthink everything! I still occasionally have days where I overthink and convince myself that some parents dislike me or I think Ive said something silly, but in reality they are probably just getting on with their day. I tell myself too that even if they do dislike me, it shouldn’t make a difference, as long as I am happy with myself and how i parent (it gets quite judgey doesn’t it!, this parenting lark) we are all different and being different is good. I feel a lot more confident about the school run now 3 years in and I know a few familiar faces. If I feel a bit uncomfortable I busy myself talking to the children (the bigger ones escape but I carry the littlest on my back so she cant! lol)

  12. Last year yes, I really wanted to make a good impression and wanted some mum friends and being at the younger end (30) I was a little anxious! I joined the PTA to make friends too and it was lovely to at least know those mums. But this year I just chat to anyone and don’t care. There is only one class per yr group in our school and so you see everyone at parties and stuff which is easier.. I would love a friend to meet up with though, there is a difference to hellos and small talk in the playground and then actually hanging out during the day.
    Good luck – its a minefield haha but I bet everyone is just as nervous x

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