I’m not talking about Rachel this time, I’m talking about me. No one tells you that when your child starts playgroup/pre-school/big school, that YOU’LL end up feeling like the new girl at school. It’s like break time by the jungle gyms all over again: you have to shake off that inherent shyness, share your sandwiches, smile and try your hardest to make friends.
I was one of the first of my friends to have kids, which ultimately meant that I had to be a bit of a pioneer. There’s no one to ask for suggestions and no one to bounce ideas off. In the end, someone’s older sister’s second cousin had heard of a playgroup near my work that their child had gone to. I went to see it, liked it, and signed her up. And that was it. I didn’t know any of the other parents, didn’t know the teachers, didn’t know anything about parent playgroup etiquette.
All the other Moms seemed to know each other, greeting each other by name, organising playdates and chatting warmly as we waited by the gates. Not me. I stood awkwardly in the corner, hoping feebly that someone would talk to me. I’m not a fan of small talk on the best of days and there really is no smaller talk than the 20 or so words you exchange as you wait for the school gates to open. Ten months later and now at least I know a few names, a few faces, but I’m still essentially an interloper and I’ve accepted that.
The other thing you have to deal with is how the kids interact with each other themselves. Can there be anything more cringe-worthy than walking with a Mom up to a group of kids and watching in horror as your child snatches a book out of their child’s hands (plus gives them a hearty shove for good measure?). Oh the shame.
On the other side of the coin, what do you do if your child makes a “best friend”? Ideally you should get together with the other child’s parents so the two can play, but what if you have nothing in common and nothing to say each other? Could be awkward.
I don’t know the answers to all these questions but I’m slowly learning. What I have begun to realise is that I have enough good friends of my own, so making friends is not a vital part of this playgroup experience. Rachel loves spending time there, she’s learning about peer interaction and the teachers and minders are wonderful: warm and firm, with good old-fashioned values. She bakes, paints, sings along to music, plays with balls, reads books, races around the garden and generally has a grand old time with her friends. Certainly sounds like a good way to spend a morning to me. Where can I sign up?