One of the problems with being a parent is that you’re thrown in to this role as not yourself but your child’s mummy/daddy. Nobody asks what your name is when they meet you, they ask your child’s name. You become known as “Oliver’s mummy”, “Will’s Daddy” etc. Eventually it reaches a point where it feels rude to ask the other person’s name because you have ‘known’ them for so long even though you’ve only said ‘Hi’, ‘Bye’ and spoken to them through your child because you’re terrified of rejection.
Do as I say not as I do…
Thinking back, I expected it to be easy once Oliver started pre-school. I figured that because we were settled and seeing the same people every day I might feel a little more confident in talking to some of the other parents. I was so wrong. I was like a rabbit caught in headlights. There were times at the door of the preschool when everyone would be standing in silence and it’s hard to break that. Or you see a group of mums who have known each other for ages and you worry they don’t want another friend or tag-a-long. Meanwhile, your child is making friends with their children by just going over to them and talking to them. Introducing himself, the way YOU taught him to.
You are not alone
After talking to other parents online, it seems I’m not alone. I recently shared a ‘social anxiety win’ on twitter and several people congratulated me. It made me wonder if the majority of us are in the same boat.
Organised our first playdate today. Took every ounce of strength to fight the anxiety to swap numbers with Oliver’s friend’s mummy!
— Nat | UEM (@DiaryofUEM) July 11, 2016
‘Once you pop you just can’t stop’
After I had swapped numbers with Oliver’s friend’s mummy (who has an actual name, but is in my phone as ‘name – child) I felt slightly better. I hadn’t been rejected, in fact she had basically invited me in to her entire group of mum friends. A few days later I had another win with another preschool mum after one of the teachers encouraged me to swap numbers. James, Oliver’s BFF from his first day at school was going on holiday then to ‘big school’. It was now or never. I feared that rejection most because James and Oliver had got on so well. He was basically the reason that Oliver settled in to the preschool and the reason he happily left us most days.
On the last day of preschool Oliver had been telling me about his new best friend, Ben. “Ben’s going to big school” he had said, so I figured out who his parents were and spoke to his Dad at pick up. Ben actually isn’t going to ‘big school’, he’s the same age as Oliver and has another year at the Montessori. I mentioned the playdate in the aforementioned tweet at one of the local parks and gave him my phone number.
Winning the war on anxiety
I feel like I’ve managed to overcome the majority of my anxiety. I’m not fearing the rejection quite as much. I also felt like I had won when Oliver got an invitation to a birthday party over the holidays. I know that technically Oliver got the invite and not me, but that’s totally a win, right?
I’m ignoring the fact that we have to do this all again in a few days when Oliver goes back to preschool and most of his best friends have gone to Primary. Maybe I will be the mum to start conversations at the school gate…
Do you suffer school gate anxiety? Or do you have any tips to overcome it?