Today in the park a little boy came up to my son.
“Do you want to be my friend?” he asked.
Sam looked him up and down, thoughtfully. Then he nodded.
“Okay,” he said. And that was it. They ran around together, chased each other up and down the slide and had a ball.
In the meantime I was skulking around, hiding behind the swings. And the reason? All the mums from Sam’s preschool had arranged to have a picnic lunch in the park and I hadn’t been invited. We all walked to the park together, then they all spread out their rugs and sat down – and I felt silly and embarrassed. And so I hid behind the swings and pretended I didn’t mind, and they all laughed and chatted and presumably didn’t give me a second thought.
Of course rationally I know that I work four days a week, so I only pick up from preschool once. I don’t know those mums and they don’t know me. And I also know they’re all really nice and if I’d plucked up my courage and asked if we could join them for their picnic they would have said ‘of course’. I know all that, but I still feel left out. And seeing as I left school more years ago than I like to admit, that’s not a way I thought I’d have to feel ever again.
Making friends is really hard and it’s harder now I’m a grown-up and really, really out of practice. Before my boys came along I wouldn’t have ever said I was shy, but now I’m nervous about talking to the mums at the school gate, or joining them on their nights out (they always invite me – they’re a lovely bunch). I worry about what to say, and how to say it, and it’s hard to go up to a group of people who all know each other and start talking. I don’t just feel this way at school either. I avoid work events when I can, and the idea of ‘networking’ fills me with horror.
My younger son starts school in September and I’m determined to do a better job with the mums in his class and make friends. I feel a bit more confident now I’m doing it for the second time! I’d love to hear your stories of school-gate friendships, making friends as a grown-up, or your tips on how to strike up conversations. Let me know via twitter @kerrybean73 or on Facebook.