On hating the school playground

I can’t do all the parent cr*p.
I just can’t.
I think by nature I am an anxious person- hell, becoming a mum proved that.

I’m probably not alone in hating walking into rooms when you don’t know anyone.
Of trying to embrace new social circles.
Becoming a mum and new social situations go hand in hand.

I remember trying to ‘put myself out there’. I went to Buggy Bunch- some form of fitness for new mums around the local park.
I was so excited walking home I phoned hubby at work- I had made friend. She had invited me around to coffee the following week.
She didn’t show the following week. The week after she blanked me. And the week after she was my friend again. And this would be my introduction to competitive parenting. Her baby was teething, and she recited the herbal remedies which she was using to ease baby’s distress. I remember teething being the furthest thing from my mind, I think our babes were no more than a couple of months old. But suddenly I was introduced each week to the latest milestones my baby hadn’t met. I stopped going to Buggy Bunch after a couple of months.

Roll on to the boys, I felt the pressure of CM having a social experience whilst I was so busy with the babies which had landed in her life.

We started going to ballet, messy play, and anything else the local community centre had on offer.
It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t any better.
As new parents we are naturally caught up in our own lives, but there are the good souls, the parents of toddlers who are coming out the other side, some were slightly more aware of the constraints of juggling three under-2’s. They lent a hand, being aware of where personal boundaries might lie and carefully interweaving them. They are the people who make life a bit easier.
But then there are the parents who embark on *that* conversation: “I could never have had twins”, “look at that woman, I couldn’t do it”. Where to even start? It might start off as funny, because it surely couldn’t be a logical thought process. But the conversation grows, others join in the commentary of your life. And it only serves as isolating for one, and camaraderie for the rest.
And you have to breathe, and know it’s not personal, it’s just personal to them.

I’m rambling. But I am going somewhere.
It never actually ends.
Competitive parenting seems a path of the course.
It’s difficult to walk away without becoming isolated. Milestones change from first teeth and weaning, to sitting, walking, potty training, writing, reading… And these become absorbed.
I can cope with these. I am my child’s mother, I am aware of their ability, their strengths and limitations. I shower them with love because I’ve learned as long as I know they’re happy I can bite my tongue at my own competitiveness.

The next hurdle, which it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to get right, is friendship circles. And this is where the problems of the playground come into their own.
You can step away from the competitive conversations but where to go when school friendships are made and broken, and no doubt a child, yours or theirs, is in the wrong. The playground is suddenly a cold place.

With CM, we seem to have found a path. We have been fortunate that since nursery all the parents have been absolutely lovely. Over the years there have been lots of parties, places for parents to get to know the caregivers of the children whose names have become so familiar.
There were hurdles, undoubtedly many friendships in school are initially based on parents being friends, and as they get older so the smaller parties begin, and you are left rationalising with your child when an invite doesn’t come their way.
And CM is, on the whole, accepting. Her friendship group changes regularly. We rise above the conversations about who’s been mean to her, we question what role she played in any fallouts.

Which brings me onto the part which currently has my eyes full of tears. When the playground becomes a horrible place to be, for the adult.
And I’m going to try to be careful with what I say. But I just feel like sh*t over it.Thoughts about the school playgroundThe boys first year in school is more stressful for me than I could have imagined. And I know it’s not that bad, that I am irrational, that these are moments in time, but the latest has hurt a lot. 

Because I’ve been caught up in social media, and believed the hype about supporting each other, about appreciating each other’s challenges, and probably I’ve used the experiences of CM as my benchmark.

The boys started Reception with friendship groups in tact, being based on those made in Nursery. Some fell by the way, which I was unhappy about, but children make their choices.

Shortly into the term we were told that B and E had been part of a group who had been engaging in physical hurting- kicking, punching and the like. The school were fantastic, they talked us through it, rationalised it, and ensured appropriate action was taken. As parents we did our bit. And all seemed well in the world.

The traumas of friendship continued, different days see different friends, some days the boys offer no-one will play with one or the other, the next day everything is well.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the boys’ teachers let us know that B was displaying poor behaviour again. Ignoring instructions and he had nipped a boy in an unprovoked act. Again, the school helped us monitor the behaviour, we couldn’t understand it against B’s behaviour at home, so we talked to him each day about acceptable behaviour and being kind, we tried to increase his sleeping hours in a bid to improve his focus and temperament.
And all was well.

This week it all turned to cr*p again.
Something happened before school on Monday, which on the surface appears to be playground behaviour. And since then, Mr J and the dad of the other child have discussed it, talked about the joys of parenting 5 year olds, and so on.
But on Monday, as the childminder was collecting the child, Mr J decided to have a chat with the childminder to make sure the child was ok.
The childminder proceeded to let Mr J know about what horrible boys we have- who kick and spit and name call. When Mr J attempted to rationalise it with the discussions which have taken place with their teachers, he was told that it was about time our eyes were opened to the situation.

I’ve never been so upset and cross.
What has happened to people? When would that be an appropriate conversation to have? When did a caregiver, who has never witnessed the interaction between the children, have a right to make judgement on a situation?
When would any caregiver think it appropriate to have the conversation with another parent of things they had not witnessed. I would have thought common sense determines that in the first instance any concerns would be discussed with the teaching team or the parent, to understand the underpinning situation.

I decided to speak to the boys teacher. And it has opened up a new set of considerations. Which is probably one for another post, after I’ve thought things through more.

But what I’m so cross about is that I know we can address the behaviour of 5 year olds but this childminder gets to think their behaviour is acceptable. To cast judgement. To be so confident without witness.

I thought I understood this parenting thing.
That some days I will get it right, and most days I’ll get it wrong.
But that’s ok, because I’m not alone.
I have a social circle who I can confide in and talk things through.
I have learned it’s always better to smile and make conversation – even though our children aren’t talking at the moment, they will be next week.
And I thought I understood that for every time my child might have some poor behaviour against another child, chances are in the next month I’ll be told about a nameless child hurting mine.

The school playground really is a place only for children. It seems it takes a more generous adult than most, to step into it and not regress.

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  • Reply
    September 12, 2017 at 13:04

    Aside from anything else that’s wholly unprofessional over her – it’s not her place to pass comment or judgement on the behaviour of children outside of her care!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2021 at 11:46

    Thank you so much for this enlightening post, I have significantly got some thing right here and I will bookmark this page for your next upcoming post.

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