Fear and Intimidation in the Playground (not the kids)

Empty playground swings in a row Stock Photo - 3146935

I’m going to share with you a truth. It’s one that I struggled with for ages and I know that some of you struggle with it too. I’ve seen it in your faces, or heard it in your voices: I hated picking up my children from their primary schools. I hated that time when we weren’t allowed into the playground, because the gate hadn’t been opened. I felt anxious as I approached, seeing the groups of mums who all looked engaged and happily chatting and I had no idea where I fitted in. I felt like an outsider and I felt awkward, just like a child might feel when they don’t have anyone to play with. I would approach a group where there were the most people I knew on a day that I felt I had it in me to do so and on other days I would wait in the car, until the gate opened.

Once open, I had to leave the safety of my car and brave the playground, as my kids could be released from their classrooms at any time and I never wanted my hate of the situation to mean I wasn’t there for them. So I would go and hover. There was nothing to distract me from the awkwardness, so I would focus on the notices that were pinned to the classroom window. Some days, if the girls were let out late, I would have read these notices twenty times, but if you’d asked me what they said, I couldn’t have told you. I could see that I wasn’t the only person who did this nervous hover. I can’t tell you how self conscious I felt, every day.

Every day I and many others, had to repeat this ritual. I’m making it sound dramatic, aren’t I? Those of you who I would see chatting and laughing with other parents may not understand how anyone could possibly feel like this. It was no-one’s fault, except my own. I needed to be braver, to be more sociable, to make more of an effort. But I really struggled with it. I struggled with it in a way that I don’t struggle in any other social situations and that made me feel even worse.

The last day I had to pick my last child up from primary school, I didn’t cry like other mums. I didn’t get sentimental about the 11 years I had spent doing it. I didn’t feel an ounce of sadness that their time there had come to an end. For the first time in all those years, I felt free.

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21 thoughts on “Fear and Intimidation in the Playground (not the kids)”

  1. You were not alone. As a primary school teacher I gated it too! There’s nothing worse than the ‘mothers mafia’!

    1. I’ve witnessed the mother mafia swearing and shouting at a reception teacher in front of all the 4 and 5 year olds – shocking!

  2. And I thought it was only me…
    I have also to confess that, as a father, I often felt bad for being a bloke stood around kids playgrounds. I still don’t know to this day if wondering if others thought I was “legit” or not was because I doubted others or myself. My reasoning went along the lines that if I thought others might have thought that I was “of dubious character,” I was the one with the problem for thinking this…or I was right because they may (or may not) have been thinking it. It was so complicated that I used to sit in the car!

    1. It’s definitely not only us! As for the paranoia – I think the playground environment makes us all over think everything! It’s like a fish bowl and I wanted to climb under the stones at the bottom!

  3. The mummy mafia is the worst! I am lucky to be able to go to the playground when it is empty, not any other pre-schoolers in my street so I can go when the schools are in. Makes it much less stressful! xxx #coolmumclub

  4. Thankfully, our school is a village school and folks are pretty friendly…It does make me think that today I’ll keep an eye out for anyone hovering around the periphery or reading the notices for too long and say ‘hi’! Thanks for sharing! I voted! Good luck!

  5. Oh I would have chatted to you if you were at my school – I hated it too – but then I don’t love cliquey groups and I don’t like small talk! I felt a huge sense of freedom when my last one left primary school so you are definitely not alone! #DreamTeam

    1. Isn’t it awful – because it is relentless and I felt ashamed of myself and so didn’t want to admit my fear to anyone. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing – I hope things improve for you x

  6. Oh no… I am sorry to read that you felt this way. We have a whole year to go till school eeek! I have heard similar stories and being shy myself, I am already feeling a bit wobbly about it. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam xx

    1. I am sure you will be fine. The funny thing is, people think of me as being confident and quite out-going. There is just something about the playground that I found difficult. I feel awkward approaching groups of people and don’t like cliques. Enjoy your year off it and then approach it with an open mind! x

  7. The whole playground thing is new for me! I’ve been doing it a week. I’m lucky I know a couple of the other mums but still feel self conscious with the others. Hoping over time that will get better. Glad you are free, popping by from #DreamTeam xx

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