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Playground Loneliness, Parenting Edition.

1
Hang on, I’m not the one who’s just started school! So why do I feel like I am, 37 years later? Ugh. I thought I’d been through this awkward stage in my life.

My youngest started full time school in September. She’d been in nursery at my 8 yr old son’s school but didn’t get into reception. That’s a nightmare in itself. I don’t drive and I have to walk them both to their separate schools a mile away from home and each other. Fun!

But when my oldest started school, I now realise, I was super lucky. It’s a small village school with

SelfishMother.com
2
only one class per year. I knew people who had kids at the school already so I didn’t feel like a total billy-no-mates in the playground on the first day. I was also lucky that another mum of a kid in his class lived in the next street to me, so I instantly had a buddy to walk to and from school with. Over the years you get to know more people and you find the ones in the playground you have the most in common with (in my case sympathising with lateness and desperately needing coffee).

That was 5 years ago. Cut to September 2018, and a new much

SelfishMother.com
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bigger school, nervous that we’d be late because of having to drop G off first, subsequently ludicrously early, parched for coffee and totally confused about the layout of the playground and where we were supposed to wait. We waited in the wrong place for 15 minutes. I was scrutinising the kids, trying to work out their ages….. turns out it’s not easy to tell apart the ages of 90 sets of 5-6 yr olds from 4-5 year olds. Why is it so complicated?! No, there was a totally different place to stand, around the back of the building and a load of other
SelfishMother.com
4
kids who all looked the same age as the previous bunch of kids. I’d missed the induction day so I was totally out of the loop. I had horrible flashbacks to when I had to walk into a classroom aged 12 a week after everyone else had started after some fuck up with my start date. I stood feeling awkward as heck with my bubble perm and I felt like a loser then, and I feel like a loser now. Bad times.

No problem though, J has a party next month I think to myself, I’ll invite all the kids in the class and I’ll get to meet all the parents. Long gone are

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my lonely days of school when it took years for me to find my crew (until 6th form … year 12 in new speak). I think I am quite good at making friends now… I’m smiley, I like a chat, I’m not an introvert, this will be FINE! I’ll soon be chatting away in the playground and feeling like I fit in! Hmmmm…..

J’s party goes great. Almost everyone responds which is a miracle, most of the parents are lovely and chatty at the party…great guns! I’ll have no problem having playground chats now!

Except….it hasn’t worked liked that. I have

SelfishMother.com
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a terrible memory. I put it down to parenthood and possibly being wine-addled over the years but I think it’s getting worse thanks to my hormones *glares at perimenopause* So I don’t totally remember whose mum belongs to whose kid. And I definitely can’t remember their names, despite trawling the Reception Facebook group I hunted down and begged to join. So I can’t confidently start a conversation with most for fear of getting their or their kids name wrong. GAH! I try and chat to some of the mums I do recognise, and no one is mean or rude, but
SelfishMother.com
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they don’t seem massively interested in instigating conversations the next time I see them. I am pretty hardy though, I know lots of people are shy or tired or have other things on their minds, especially at the morning drop off when you’ve got a million and one other things to think about. So I keep smiling and nodding and waving at the parents I’ve chatted to. But there are only so many times you can do that without the nods and chats being reciprocated before you want to just give up, right?

So… I’ve started to feel… lonely in the

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playground. Which sucks. It brings back shitty memories of my school years, where I’d hang out in the art department at lunchtime making awful clay ashtrays (ah the 90s!) with the other oddballs cos I had no one else to hang out with. Or drawing comic strip books full of the kinds of people I wanted to be friends with in real life. (OK that’s a bit loserish…)

Outside of my daughters school now I have loads of brilliant friends. My social life isn’t a tumble-weed moment so it’s not a case of feeling like I need invites to exciting events or

SelfishMother.com
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even to go for coffee…I have coffee mum friends, I have wine mum friends, I have friend friends. As I said before, I’m lucky and I appreciate everyone of them.

It’s just such a shock to me that even with the confidence of knowing I have good friends elsewhere, I can still feel so isolated. And what about the mums who ARE shy? The mum’s who are introverts, the mums who have just started the school run and also don’t know anyone? Who knew the playground could be such hard work for the parents!?!

I won’t be defeated though. I’ve spent

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years trying to undo the feelings of loneliness that prevailed in my youth. I will still force my “HIYAS!” and Cheshire-cat grins at people. I might even throw in a few panto winks and see what happens. SOMEONE in the school is going to be my friend by the end of the school year. WE WILL DEFEAT PLAYGROUND LONELINESS!

WHO’S WITH ME? *does mad-eye wink*

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Jess Helicopter

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- 5 Jan 19

Hang on, I’m not the one who’s just started school! So why do I feel like I am, 37 years later? Ugh. I thought I’d been through this awkward stage in my life.

My youngest started full time school in September. She’d been in nursery at my 8 yr old son’s school but didn’t get into reception. That’s a nightmare in itself. I don’t drive and I have to walk them both to their separate schools a mile away from home and each other. Fun!

But when my oldest started school, I now realise, I was super lucky. It’s a small village school with only one class per year. I knew people who had kids at the school already so I didn’t feel like a total billy-no-mates in the playground on the first day. I was also lucky that another mum of a kid in his class lived in the next street to me, so I instantly had a buddy to walk to and from school with. Over the years you get to know more people and you find the ones in the playground you have the most in common with (in my case sympathising with lateness and desperately needing coffee).

That was 5 years ago. Cut to September 2018, and a new much bigger school, nervous that we’d be late because of having to drop G off first, subsequently ludicrously early, parched for coffee and totally confused about the layout of the playground and where we were supposed to wait. We waited in the wrong place for 15 minutes. I was scrutinising the kids, trying to work out their ages….. turns out it’s not easy to tell apart the ages of 90 sets of 5-6 yr olds from 4-5 year olds. Why is it so complicated?! No, there was a totally different place to stand, around the back of the building and a load of other kids who all looked the same age as the previous bunch of kids. I’d missed the induction day so I was totally out of the loop. I had horrible flashbacks to when I had to walk into a classroom aged 12 a week after everyone else had started after some fuck up with my start date. I stood feeling awkward as heck with my bubble perm and I felt like a loser then, and I feel like a loser now. Bad times.

No problem though, J has a party next month I think to myself, I’ll invite all the kids in the class and I’ll get to meet all the parents. Long gone are my lonely days of school when it took years for me to find my crew (until 6th form … year 12 in new speak). I think I am quite good at making friends now… I’m smiley, I like a chat, I’m not an introvert, this will be FINE! I’ll soon be chatting away in the playground and feeling like I fit in! Hmmmm…..

J’s party goes great. Almost everyone responds which is a miracle, most of the parents are lovely and chatty at the party…great guns! I’ll have no problem having playground chats now!

Except….it hasn’t worked liked that. I have a terrible memory. I put it down to parenthood and possibly being wine-addled over the years but I think it’s getting worse thanks to my hormones *glares at perimenopause* So I don’t totally remember whose mum belongs to whose kid. And I definitely can’t remember their names, despite trawling the Reception Facebook group I hunted down and begged to join. So I can’t confidently start a conversation with most for fear of getting their or their kids name wrong. GAH! I try and chat to some of the mums I do recognise, and no one is mean or rude, but they don’t seem massively interested in instigating conversations the next time I see them. I am pretty hardy though, I know lots of people are shy or tired or have other things on their minds, especially at the morning drop off when you’ve got a million and one other things to think about. So I keep smiling and nodding and waving at the parents I’ve chatted to. But there are only so many times you can do that without the nods and chats being reciprocated before you want to just give up, right?

So… I’ve started to feel… lonely in the playground. Which sucks. It brings back shitty memories of my school years, where I’d hang out in the art department at lunchtime making awful clay ashtrays (ah the 90s!) with the other oddballs cos I had no one else to hang out with. Or drawing comic strip books full of the kinds of people I wanted to be friends with in real life. (OK that’s a bit loserish…)

Outside of my daughters school now I have loads of brilliant friends. My social life isn’t a tumble-weed moment so it’s not a case of feeling like I need invites to exciting events or even to go for coffee…I have coffee mum friends, I have wine mum friends, I have friend friends. As I said before, I’m lucky and I appreciate everyone of them.

It’s just such a shock to me that even with the confidence of knowing I have good friends elsewhere, I can still feel so isolated. And what about the mums who ARE shy? The mum’s who are introverts, the mums who have just started the school run and also don’t know anyone? Who knew the playground could be such hard work for the parents!?!

I won’t be defeated though. I’ve spent years trying to undo the feelings of loneliness that prevailed in my youth. I will still force my “HIYAS!” and Cheshire-cat grins at people. I might even throw in a few panto winks and see what happens. SOMEONE in the school is going to be my friend by the end of the school year. WE WILL DEFEAT PLAYGROUND LONELINESS!

WHO’S WITH ME? *does mad-eye wink*

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Jess Helicopter

Jess is a wine-addled, social media tart, Intersectional feminist and chronic over sharer. She lives in Cardiff with her husband, children (G-8/J-5) and some cats. Went to art school but after graduation got sucked into working for "the man". Now trying to claw her creative way out by fancying herself as a bit of writer.

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