It’s a while since I’ve done the run up ‘dog poo alley’ to drop my smalls at schools and deal with cliquey school mums as my smalls are now mainly talls and have left that institution of primary and secondary education (I am that old). I have to be honest I’m not entirely sure how that happened and the last five years seems to be memory blank – however what isn’t a memory blank is the fear of that bloody playground.
I can remember it very clearly when my smalls started school, worrying about them starting a new school, meeting new friends, the joy of getting rid of the nursery fees thinking I would now be mega rich as I would obviously save all the nursery fees and go on amazing holidays every year. Reader, I can confirm, that I have also no sodding idea what happened to those saved nursery fees, probably languishing somewhere with all the Tupperware lids.
Anyway, back to dog poo alley (so named as we dodged the dog poo running late up the path at the side of school to throw your beloved smalls at the teacher before dodging the pram army on the way back down) and back when my talls were small and the worry about starting school.
As the dawn of a new school term approached, the day when I would drop (kick) my little poppet into the classroom, I began to realise that my fear was not so much about whether the small would make friends but whether anyone among the cliquey school mums would make friends with me.
I ran a business and the first small had graced me with her presence nearly four weeks early so there was no NCT classes for me, no pregnancy chat with like-minded souls and no parent to be power chats. I mainly went into labour, waddled into the hospital and after pushing that watermelon of my first born out of my foo I cracked on with the juggling of running a business with a child who thought sleep was for the weak.
So when school-time eventually dawned, there I was weak with lack of sleep, full of vanilla slices and up the duff with the soon-to-be Lord Prince. And I waddled into that playground fearful as a fox in hunting season because of those cliquey school mums and their cliques.
Feeling like a lonely parent
I was that lone parent, with no girl gang, no buddies from the playgroup and no wing woman to make that first entrance into the playground a fly-by that Tom Cruise would be proud of. I did have a three year who reassured me that I would be okay and she would be fine and I might make some friends too.
It’s a big deal – and something that happens to so many of us. How do you deal with the cliquey school mums and find your own tribe in the playground? How do you walk into a place where you’re the newbie, the outsider, the one that everyone stares at?
Well – the advice is simple:
OWN YOU. BE YOU. AND SMILE.
Kill with kindness
My advice to the kids, even now, is always ‘kill them with kindness’ and it’s a piece of advice you cannot go wrong with- especially when we are doing all the adulting.
If you smile at someone then our mirror neurons in our body want us to mirror that behaviour, to smile back. And if they don’t smile back, they’re obviously a psychopath and should be avoided at all costs (this also may be a bit extreme, but also they may be worried and nervous and lack all the confidence.)
Walking into that playground as the new mum on the block takes bravery and so you have to give yourself a good talking to before you do it. It’s about feeling good about yourself, the good work always starts with you. It’s about having the confidence to be you because no other fecker can take that away from you.
Smiling and bravery
It doesn’t matter whether you’re running in in your jimmies with your hair in a housewife knot or whether you’ve popped on your best crocs; a smile and a good dose of bravery are all you need to rock that playground pole position.
I’m not a big fan of ‘fake it until you make it’ but in the case of playground angst, it’s a case of being that version of you that you can picture, you can see and then acting the role.
Practice makes perfect
And then it’s about practice, it’s about bringing the familiarity into the routine, the daily drag(ging) up dog poo alley means you soon get used to it, and notice all the schizzle going on.
It’s about choosing you, it’s also about reminding yourself who you have around you, who is in your circle, your friends, your champions – and that the people in the playground may one day be in your circle but that’s a choice you make, not something that is forced upon you.
You are not alone
And here’s the other MAHOOSIVE thing – it’s about remembering you’re not alone, that the woman over there who’s holding onto her little poppet’s hand tighter than tight is probably feeling way more nervous than you, so in your brave new role, go and say hi…You never know she may be your wing woman in future; she may be your person. Take a chance.
And the cliques – screw them….I am not a believer in ‘if you can’t beat them, join them;’ I firmly believe that in an inclusive world, if we are true to ourselves, if we are friendly and firm, we will find our tribe. We have to remember the lessons we are teaching our little people when we walk into that playground.
It’s ok to be nervous
We can teach them it’s okay to be nervous, we can teach them that it’s okay to worry (a bit of worry is not a bad thing) but we can also teach them that the most important thing is to be you. So if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your small who is soaking up all your behaviours and approaches.
That Pram Army need not be the scary soldiers of the playground you can invite them into your tribe (if you choose to) – you don’t need to wait for them to invite you in.
And finally it’s totally okay to drop(kick) them in and run back to your tribe. You don’t have to be friends with everyone.
Sarah Knight is the founder of Mind The Gap Business Academy and a 49-year-old perimenopausal mother of two based in Manchester and a certified NLP Practitioner, specialist trainer and business mindset consultant with years of front-line experience that she has harnessed to help support and develop individuals and their organisations.
Her coaching, consultancy and training programmes provide hands-on, practical, tailored training that empowers individuals and helps them to develop their own personal styles; all beginning with their mindset.