No, not that kind of click. The other one.
First week at school is done. Well done parentals! You did it! I am sure some of your kids came home with elongated tales of all of the wonderful things that they had learnt or done each day (or each half-day, if they’re still settling in). And then there will have been some of your kids who, if they are anything like mine, came home with no tales of anything much at all, because they “can’t remember”.
No parent wants their child to feel isolated at school. We want them to have at least one friend, and hopefully many, who they play with, who they sit next to at lunchtime, who invites them round for play dates and who accepts play date invitations in return. In order to facilitate this, some of us may have set up play dates, the Summer before our kids started school, with other kids we knew would be in their class. We may have hung out in the local park, waiting for other kids who we knew would be in their class at school to arrive. Perhaps we even social media-stalked the parents of the other kids we knew would be in our kid’s class to get an idea of where they were on any particular day and, perhaps, turned up at that place and ‘accidentally’ bumped into said parents and kids*. The point is, we do what we can to make sure that our kids have the easiest transition into school life.
I remember the angst I felt, during the first few months of her starting school last year, when I thought that Kid 1+1 had no friends. After asking Kid 1+1 who she had played with that day and hearing her response of “no-one” and having my heart break every day for a week, I asked her sister to spy on her (not in those terms obviously) and report back to me on who she had played with at break-time. Kid 1’s report contrasted greatly with her younger sister’s. While Kid 1+1 would tell me she had flown solo all day, her sister would take great satisfaction in correcting her by stating, “No, mummy, she’s lying…” and then reeling off a list of other kids in the reception class who Kid 1+1 had played with. Kid 1+1 would then recall that she actually hadn’t been a stone-kicking loner all day and be all, “Oh yeah! I just couldn’t remember their name”. Whatevs Kid. It’s a minefield and a rollercoaster – all at the same time. But, chances are, your kid has got this.
Of course, there has been much focus on the kiddies this week, as well there should be, because it was a tough week for many of them, but we should spare a thought for ourselves at this time. It’s not just back to school for them – it’s back to school for us too. In many cases, right back to the playground, aged about 11 *sigh*. Yeah, that.
I’m not sure what your secondary school days were like, but, at least if you are female, there is a high probability that you experienced, observed or dished out some playground bullying, even if on a very basic level. Suffice to say, it continues into adulthood, and what better breeding ground for it than another school playground.
I was speaking to a parent-friend this week and was saddened by what she told me. We were discussing the group dynamics in the different year groups and she told me about one particular mum, in her kid’s year group, who was very selective about who she would and would not speak to. This mum seemed to seek out other mothers who lived on certain streets in the area, or who worked in certain industries, or who looked a certain way. Now, while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I mean, you can have whatever strategy you want for building your own network and be friends with whoever you want to be friends with, when you totally blank other people who don’t fit your model of a what a friend should be/look like and make them feel like crap about it, that’s not nice. This mum was click-clickety-clique-building, and the clique made my friend’s first year at the school uncomfortable. Mums who she used to talk to, who were subsequently inducted into the clique, stopped talking to her. She received that dismissive smile-with-the-dead-eyes from them whenever she happened to catch their eye. The school run became a time of anxiety during which she just wanted to get in and out of the playground as quickly as possible. When you’re trying your best to ensure that your child is feeling good about starting school, you are unlikely to want to have to deal with your own feelings of inadequacy, whether or not they are justified. Just be kind, people, and there shall be no problem.
In my bestest trying-not-to-be-preachy voice, I want to share with you some advice that I was given on building school-mum relationships. Although you may want to dive right in and secure your friendships with those well-dressed, well-groomed and seemingly popular mums, you know, the ones in the slogan sweatshirts and the limited edition Adidas shell-toes, try holding back and waiting until you, and your child, have settled in to the new routine. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be friendly. I’m just saying that you might want to try observing first, and then playing the field a bit. Coffees/teas/matcha lattes with the other mums are a great way to get to know them (if you have the luxury of not having to drop your kid at breakfast club at 7.30am or rush off to the train station as soon as you see their teacher step into the playground at 8:59am), but try to take things slowly…like you would with any new relationship.
The things that are most good for you grow organically (like the veg in my garden *smug face*) – that’s why they are so expensive. So many new mum relationships crash and burn because they are forced; because we often move too quickly and align ourselves with people who may look like the right choice on day 1, but prove to be totally incompatible by day 5, by which point it may be too late to switch sides. Everyone comes to school with their game face on, presenting their representative, as Chris Rock would put it (excuse the obscure reference). At some point, the mask will slip, and although it may not reveal Satan’s Spawn underneath, it may reveal something that is not to your particular liking.
In a nutshell, my message is simple: school is hard enough for all involved. Be kind and let the only clicks be from your heels running to catch the train or the best seat in the coffee shop.
New parents in the playground, does any of this resonate with you yet? Hopefully, not, but if it does, know that you are so not alone. It happens everywhere. Old-hand parents i.e. those of you who have had kids at school for over a year now, how have you coped with the click-clickety-cliques?
*This last example was written purely for comedic value. I neither advise or condone stalking of any kind, especially when children are implicated.