When standing in the playground as a mum is as daunting as it was when you were a child...
I'm a confident person. I dress how I want, choose not to bother with make up and will talk to anyone. Except when it comes to new situations - that's when the shy, anxious me emerges. I cannot start a conversation with someone new, it brings me out in a cold sweat. So standing in a playground with dozens of other parents, all milling about and catching up with each other is hellish. Today I cried. I'm (nearly) 36 years old and I had tears welling because no one speaks to me at school. The fact that this upset me only served to upset me more!
If you know me, you wouldn't realise that underneath my chatter and hilarious (ok, slightly amusing) wit is crippling anxiety. You wouldn't know that I probably spent weeks thinking about the first conversation we had, and how I might have come across. You see, being socially awkward has a nasty habit of making you look aloof and rude, when actually you're second-guessing your every move. This is how it is for me;
Me (in my head), walking in to the playground today: Ok, go stand over there, in between groups, near that mum you smiled at once. Don't make eye contact, because you might have to instigate conversation and you have nothing to say, she might say hi though, and then you can comment on her bag or coat. Maybe even mention that mutual friend you saw you had in common. Just concentrate on Tabby. Damn, Tabby's gone off with her playmate. Ok, get your phone out. Stare at that, but not too long, otherwise people might think you're a neglectful parent. Glance up, crap!!! I looked at someone and she looked at me - does she think I was staring? Did I look dismissive by not saying anything? Thank goodness the bell's ringing - here's the teacher. She's spoken to me, I must reply with something funny! She doesn't get it. I'm a dick. Leave playground looking at feet.
I looked around me at the clusters of mums, dads and grandparents and I just don't know how to approach them. It's not their job to welcome me, I don't expect that. But it's so hard and isolated standing there - you feel so obvious, so awkward and very alone.
So spare a thought for that mum who never bothers to say hi - she might not be snooty, rude or distant. Inside she might be freaking out about breaking the ice. If you talk to her, include her (or him!!) you'll make such a difference.