Updated: Apr 14, 2018
I don't know about you but one of the hardest things about my children going to school are the drop offs and pick ups, but not for the reason you may think.
It's true that both of my kids have gone through episodes of anxiety about being left at school, for one reason or another. Even now, when they've been in the school system for 7 and 5 years respectively, they can have days when getting through the door can be a bit of a drama, which can be upsetting and cause the old pang of guilt for forcing them through it. But that's not what is most uncomfortable for me.
No, what I'm most fearful of are the other mums.
To admit such a thing feels very strange; that, at the age I am, I'm intimidated by the school playground. Since my eldest started school, those few minutes every school morning and afternoon can have filled me with dread and, at times, feeling like I'd rather keep the children at home than have to face that excruciating scenario.
Is it just me?? Am I the only person who dreads having to walk onto the school grounds with scores of other people and wait for my children to come out of their classroom? It certainly feels as if everyone else is entirely at home and at ease in that environment. They chat to each other, play with each other's pre-school age children, they come early for god's sake so they can do this! And, while it may not be every day, sometimes there's me, not knowing where to look or which virtual stranger to try and strike up a general chit-chat conversation with (never been my strong point anyway) and who can find the whole thing just very bloody stressful.
Yes, it depends on my head that day but, very often you'll find me furiously avoiding eye contact with people whose names I don't know or who I may have been introduced to but have no idea which child they belong to, and how can you start talking to a parent when you don't know if their child is in your child's class or maybe you know they are but not which one or what their name is?? Arrgghh!!!
My little sproglets in the summer term of our first year in Essex.
The thing about being so socially awkward is that it results in people not bothering to acknowledge me, let alone speak to me. Don't get me wrong here, I don't blame them at all! After all, I do the same: if there's someone who's never said hello to me or sometimes does but doesn't always, and if I'm feeling a bit sensitive, I might do that thing where you pretend you haven't seen them just to avoid the inevitable or potential 'blanking'. But it's a Catch-22: how do you become less nervous of a difficult environment when your nervousness makes it more difficult?
I am going to cut myself a bit of a break though. I know that this is to do with what goes on in my head, that it's as a result of my depression. When my children started at the local school and I joined this new (to me) community of mums, it was at a time when I felt extremely low and out of place. My sister died just 2 weeks after their first day at school and I was crashing through the early stages of grief; most days even just getting up was hard but I also had to get two children up and ready for school. By the time I got there in the morning I was exhausted and, after a day of crying, I was completely drained. What on earth did I have to offer to a load of strangers to try and make them like me? I could barely find the courage to lift my head and make eye contact, let alone join a group, smile and make conversation. It took me that whole first school year just to start feeling like I could be 'normal' again, by which point I guess most other parents I saw had written me off as either unapproachable or not interested in being friendly.
I don't exactly know what I'm hoping to get out of writing about this. Partly it's to explain how I've been to parents I know or see but it's also to see whether anyone else feels like I do. If talking about things does actually make a difference then admitting this is a thing and sharing our feelings and experiences might help us find a way to make it less agonizing. If you want to share then maybe you can leave a comment below or message me privately. If nothing else and no one replies then at least I'll know it's just my thing to sort out by myself!
Thanks for reading.