It happened so fast – Olivia only just turned four and yet here she is, pigtails in, school dress on and leaving me forever. She’s anxious and excited and started wetting herself again. I know how she feels. Will I fit in? Will I make friends? Is my skirt tucked into my knickers? The first day at school is not only daunting for our kids, but it’s an anxious time for mums too.
The atmosphere in the playground is positively glacial. Some of the mums seem to know each other already, perhaps from baby groups or older siblings and they huddle together in little packs. An attempt to catch their eye fails and a smile goes unreturned.
Right, I think. Be bold. I march up to a well-groomed mum who is alone with her son. “Hi” I say cheerfully, “I don’t think we’ve met.” She looks at me blankly for a second before her son begins to complain loudly about his new school shoes. She turns and gives him her undivided attention for a whole minute, which feels like an hour as my confidence sinks lower and lower.
Luckily, I’m saved by the bell. As the children line up to go in, wails and sobbing fill the air. “Oh my baby!” weeps a tall, tanned mum wearing silver loafers and a real Gucci handbag. “Have a lovely day Hepzibah… Mummy loves you darling!” sniffs another, sporting expensive looking Pilates gear and a Fortnum and Mason jute shopper. The kids, meanwhile are mostly nonplussed. I look over to give Olivia a wave but she is busy picking her nose and doesn’t notice. “Stop that!” I hiss, as Fortnum and Mason gives a disapproving look.
There’s one mum I do recognise from the new parents evening last week. It’s Sally, AKA Super-Keen Sally. She’s the one who always replies to the dreary round robin emails and is Super-Happy-to-Help with the mind-numbing questions on our What’s App parent group, like where to get wide-fitting plimsolls and whether anyone knows a good nanny who speaks Russian. She ends all her messages with Lol. I try not to catch Sally’s eye. These mums are frosty enough. Hanging out with Sally could send me to Outer Siberia.
The children traipse in to school, and the mums begin to slip away. My 17 month old is shouting loudly in her buggy about “Cow Poo Poo” again (the only phrase she remembered from a recent visit to the farm), so I offer her some Pom Bears to keep her quiet. She didn’t get much in the way of breakfast after we all scrambled out of the house to ensure we got to school on time.
So now, I’m going to go home. First I’m going to get a wash. Then I’m going to have to breakfast. And then I’m going to wonder how the hell I will manage this, every day, for the next 10 years or so.
I think Olivia will cope just fine with school. It’s me that feels awkward and unsure. I’ve just joined a new class – Reception Mums of 2016 – and it’s like starting at a cliquey all-girls school for grown-ups. With a bit of luck, if I can break through the ice, the friendships formed in these first few weeks could be ones that last a lifetime. And maybe, amongst the Mean Girls, I might find another quirky, rebellious mum like me.
© Rebellious Mum 2016