My daughter started school this year and even though she is my second child, I admit I was worried.
I wanted her to make friends. I wanted her to have a safety net and a go-to buddy every time the teacher asked them to form a pair.
Instead of asking her what she learnt I asked her who she played with. One afternoon she answered with “no one.” No one? Why was she smiling? When I asked her what she did at lunch time she told me she was a construction bin.
What does a construction bin do? It stands there. I asked her if she was lonely. She laughed and told me she didn’t feel like playing with anyone. She wanted to play her own game.
After the first month she had already had her first kiss, which was “gross” and she vowed never to do it again. She also got married. Her 5 year old husband wanted to make her happy and stole his mother’s credit card and brought it to school for her.
Months later she has learnt to read and count. She has become confident and when I pick her up there are handfuls of children who say goodbye to her. They know her name and she knows theirs.
What was I worried about? Maybe I was worried about myself. As an introvert sometimes I can’t work out if I’m shy or lazy. But, being part of a crowd makes me nervous. I feel like I look awkward, and that probably makes me more awkward.
I love people, I love deep and meaningful conversations. But, I am terrible at chit chat. I’ve had the same friends since high school and if I do make new friendships it takes time.
You tell me your name and it doesn’t sink in. I’m not listening, I’m too busy thinking about my body language. I’ll always remember your face and what we spoke about, but if you want me to remember your name. Add me to Facebook.
Being a parent means mingling. It means making new friendships whether you want to or not. I look at the mums at school pick up who nail it. They fit in and have a large posse to welcome them. They are celebrities at school and they deserve to be. These women are outgoing and they are nice. I’m slightly intimidated by groups of nice outgoing school mums. I admit it.
All I can do is stand there and hope I spot one of the five friends I have made over the past few years. Or bury my head in my phone. To be honest, I’m writing this article at school. Right now.
Recently my daughter went to her first school party. The whole class was invited and I took her on a cold Sunday afternoon because that’s what parents are expected to do.
I clung to the only mum I knew and followed her around like a lost puppy. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. I had to introduce myself to the host. She told me her name, was it Jan? Judy? Patricia? I can’t remember.
She was moving her hand, I didn’t know if she was signalling to shake it or going to scratch her nose. Do women shake hands? I panicked. I literally asked her if we should shake hands now. The words came out of my mouth before I could stop myself. I see her at school and I swear she turns away, maybe it’s in my head. It probably is.
Then there was last week, I was sitting there waiting for the end of school bell. Sometimes I sit in my car for as long as possible to avoid the dreaded chit chat. What if someone asks me a question I don’t have an answer to? But the sun was out, I wanted to make the most of the day. I found a seat, far away enough from any potential mum posses but close enough to grab my daughter and leave.
Someone sat next to me. She was chatty and I spent half the conversation wondering if we knew each other. We didn’t. But, I liked her and it wasn’t uncomfortable. How did she do that? How did she just come and sit down next to a complete stranger and have a conversation. She made me feel like we were old friends.
My ex-husband once told me I looked like a bitch. This is part of the reason he is my ex. Maybe it’s my resting bitch face which is the problem.
Or, maybe I’m not alone. Having children doesn’t automatically make you more outgoing but it does make you doubt yourself. If I am terrible at chit chat can’t I just own it?
Can I stick to who I know without feeling guilty. Can I do the minimum when it comes to socialising with other parents at the school gate?
My daughter thinks it is fine to be a construction bin when you don’t feel like playing with other kids. I am going to use this same approach when I don’t feel like talking to adults.
Do you have trouble mingling with other parents?