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?