Are playground politics really that big a deal? I don’t think it is….
As kids up and down the country settle back into school, many parents are already starting to post on social media about their experiences with the playground politics involving the ‘school gate mafia’ and the mums in their tight cliques who spend their time looking down their noses at everyone.
I get that there’ll always be the odd trouble causer or the person who you really can’t get along with, that’s just the way the world works but I wanted to share my experience with you so you might look at the groups you see in the playground a little differently.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Back when Miss Frugal was in nursery and reception, I wasn’t generally the one dropping her off at school as we were lucky enough to have a family member look after her while we worked. By the time Master Frugal started school a couple of years later, I’d changed my working hours so I could be there more with them during the day so it was me who dropped them off at school and collected them again most days.
All the Mum’s had formed friendship groups and as I thought I’d fallen victim to the dreaded playground politics so I simply stood to the side, feeling left out and sorry for myself, I could hear them making plans to get the kids together to do things and even worse in my mind, to get together themselves without the kids.
I felt like the other Mums didn’t like me and was annoyed that they didn’t make the effort to come and talk to me because genuinely, I’m a nice person and I didn’t get why they didn’t want to include me in their plans.
I went on like this for a good year or so, and even though the kids were always invited to parties and play dates I just never felt like part of the ‘in crowd’ during that time. I would watch from the sidelines and other than an awkward smile here and there, I’d not make any effort to involve myself in the conversations although I often wanted to interrupt and join in.
I can’t remember what changed in my head but one day I realised that it was ME who needed to make the effort. The other Mums who were stood talking to their friends weren’t likely to leave their group and come over to me, the awkward looking one on the edge of the playground, to strike up a conversation with me. Why would they?
I’m quite shy so even after I had that lightbulb moment, I wasn’t able to simply march over and join in but I did get closer and I did start to say hello and smile in a more friendly way than I’d managed before when I was worried about not being accepted.
The more effort I made, the more the other Mums responded to me and the school run became a lot more enjoyable. It turned out that yes, the Mums did have friendship groups but that’s a natural thing in any society. They were more than willing to include me but they just didn’t make the first move, that was for me to do if I wanted to join in.
As nice as it would be, the school mum’s don’t have a buddy system like the kids in school to make sure no child is made to feel lonely or left out. You can pretty much guarantee that you will be left out if you don’t make an effort to join in – and by effort I don’t mean a half-hearted awkward smile or the odd ‘hi’ as you pass. If anything that just makes you look stuck up as if you don’t want to join in.
I know from experience the impact a little effort can make because not long after I started to change my attitude, one of the Mums who was (in my head) one of the ‘popular kids’ invited me over for a drink with her and a few of the other Mums. The words no thank you almost came out of my mouth but then I remembered my resolve to join in so I said yes.
I’m not exaggerating when I say my life changed quite a bit that day! We totally clicked and since that day she had been the best friend I’ve ever had and I genuinely couldn’t picture my life without her. She’s amazing and Miss Frugal has her in her phone as Mama Bear 2 – both my kids would go to her for anything and there’s been more times than I could tell you where she’s saved me from one trauma or another.
What if the school clique you think are being snobby are really just talking to the people they know and by making an effort, you could be ‘one of them’?
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