Izzy has been going to preschool for four whole months. She is loving the social and learning experiences and I am finally taking a leaf out of her book. Naturally cautious about situations involving lots of women, I have spent the past few months getting the measure of my fellow mums and I am glad that I have. I have had a few mornings out with a lovely woman who I now feel I can call a friend – she has an easy way about her and we have found ourselves talking about the same kinds of random topics that I discuss with my oldest and closest friends. Here is a woman I can relate to! A second woman seems as shy as I am around large groups of people but gradually we have found ourselves talking about work, children and recipes (oh the domesticity of it all!). Most recently I have been approached by the matriarch of the preschool – the mum that all mums know, the hub of all activity at the coatpegs and the glue that seems to hold all the other mums together. I knew I’d been accepted when today she ran after me and shouted “Nikki, I think she has left her hand socks in the cloakroom”. Gasp – she knows my name!!! (Hand socks, by the way, are the socks you grab to keep your kids hands warm on bitterly cold days when mittens and gloves have gone walkabout!). Slightly starstruck I thanked her, had a chuckle with her as her son ran over to say goodbye and bid her a friendly “see you tomorrow”.
This is the extent of my social interaction with the other mums after four months – one friend and two acquaintances. Why have I not thrown myself into the fold like so many of the other mummies at the playground gates?
I will tell you, the benefit of watching and listening for four months has taught me a very important lesson. The cloakroom is a place of truce and harrassed mums united in cries of “Have you got your coat darling?”, “Do you need a wee? Then why are you dancing like that?”, “Where’s your other welly?”… Similarly the playground is for eyerolling and shouts of “Don’t run off without me!”… The playground gate, however, is where the gloves come off. Having run the mutual gauntlet of child collecting and waved goodbye to the mum who brought the car, is going in another direction or wants to pop into the office (probably to see if the other welly has been handed in to lost and found) the remaining mummies can begin the ritual sacrifice – the time honoured character assassination enjoyed by girls and women across the world. Like sharks around their injured comrade they circle, the smell of blood has reached them and they can hold back no more… “Did you see the state of little Junior* today? And when did she last wash her hair?!”. Unpleasant comments usually either preceeded or followed by the phrase “Not being bitchy or anything” or the justification that “I worry that she’s not coping with the new baby – what do you think?” (Which I fear is roughly translated as “I invite you to join me in this bitch session so that I cannot be talked about as a bitch behind my own back at a later date…). Oh but ladies how the tables will turn next week, for the bitch will become the bitch-ee. Beware the afternoon that you need to rush off to the doctors and so can’t take your place at the playground gate – for then it will be your turn to feel the sharp end of a tongue and if you feel your ears burning you can rest assured that karma is, like you… a bit of a bitch actually! 🙂