I'm still new to this whole school-aged kid thing.
I tentatively dipped my toes into the water with preschool, and today I find myself the mother of a kindergartener.
Have mercy, people.
I find many aspects of being the parent of a school-aged child challenging: the effects on a child as they transition to school, emotional distress over being away from your child for longer periods of time (ie, the entire day), hoping that you taught your child enough for them to survive the day independent of you, wondering if they'll make friends, hoping no one will bully them, etc.
But one of the most difficult things about mothering a school-aged child?
Being the mom of a baby, toddler, preschooler all these years has made my world snug and cozy. I have the moms I see regularly, friends from story time and play dates. Over the past 2 years, I've added the small circle of parents from Chica's preschool. Since the school is only one class, it was easy to get to know and build friendships with the other parents.
This whole "Elementary School" thing, though, is another beast all together.
It's classrooms full of kids, which means classrooms full of parents. And suddenly I am thrust back into Middle School Steph: hesitant around new people, wondering if they like me, not sure where I fit in.
I know. So cool.
Little known fact about Steph: I am a bit shy. I tend to be a reserved in new situations and ease into friendships slowly. Earlier in my life, I was painfully self-conscious and socially awkward. Like. A lot. And it took a long time to find confidence in who I am, to embrace and be proud of myself. Without that confidence, it was hard to walk into a room of strangers and present myself.
I've come a long way from the awkward girl of my youth, and can now embrace situations where I get to meet new people. But there is something inside of me that always holds me back a bit. A voice that whispers untruths: lies about my looks, my abilities, my value. And just as I did when I was young, I perceive that people see me as that person. I perceive them perceiving me. I fear there are Mean Girls in the midst of the crowd.
And it's a downward spiral from there.
Case In Point: I went to a quick meet-up this Summer, sponsored by a group of local moms whose kids go to my daughter's Kindergarten Center. It was promoted on the school's facebook page. And although it was a bit out of my comfort zone, to just show up at a playground knowing no one but my children, I thought it'd be a great way to get to know parents (and kids) before the school year started. I figured, "Hey. We're adults now. We are able to put judgements aside, welcome new relationships and enjoy the opportunity to meet new people."
Somehow, during this meeting, all of my Meeting New Mom nightmares came true. Many of the people already knew each other from group meetings over the years. Despite the fact that it was an "open invitation" to new kindergarten parents, all the moms seemed to find their cliques and hang out with the people they knew. There were a few stragglers, like myself, undefined by a group. No one stepped out to try to introduced themselves, no one welcomed the new parents.
So I took all the moxie I could muster, and went up to several groups in an attempt to introduce myself. The smiles were quick and polite, but any conversation quickly fizzled. I even did my best to resurrect new discussions, but it was clear that the moms I kept introducing myself to wanted to catch up with their own friends.
I felt like I was having that dream where I was in class and look down to find that I am totally naked.
I left that meeting discouraged about the moms I would be interacting with this school year. Everything in me wanted to write them off: "Forget them. I don't need new friends. I have great friends. And I'm flipping awesome. They are missing out. I'm not trying again."
We need to try.
I am motivated to find the moms I can relate to and build relationships with. I may not click with every mom. That's okay. We aren't meant to. But after that meet-up, I spent time putting myself in the shoes of other moms. I quickly realized there may be moms who are a bit like me: shy or anxious about meeting new people. Maybe they are unsure and take time to get used to new friendships.
So I need to give them a chance.
And to the moms who have been there done that? The moms who have established friendships or are well-aquatined with the other local moms?
Give new moms a chance.
It's easy (and fun) to spend time catching up with the people you know at functions. But sometimes we need to be the Initiators. We need to be the Welcoming Face. We need to reach out and shake hands and say howdy. We need to start (and hold) conversations, even if its out of our comfort zones or you really need to talk to Suzy about last weeks RHONJ.
Because reaching out and opening up and making friendships may not come as easy to some as it comes to you. For some, it is a self-confidence issue. For others, it is a hurt from past friendships or just plain personality type. You never know what another person is facing, you don't know the demons she has fought. Some people just need a friend.
And because moms, ALL moms, whoever they are and wherever they may be located, are part of your community.
Give all moms a chance.
You may just find yourself with a new friend or two.