The complexity of the playground is not just for when you were a child! Unfortunately, the intricacies of our social structure continue on forever, even when we are parents sizing each other up across the heads of our children.
The school that my son attends is really lovely and I don’t have any particular issues with the other mums but I do have to accept that there is still a sense of social hierarchy and appropriateness. We aren’t all socially ept or always socially ept and accepting that as a starting point has been very beneficial for me. Interpret that to mean forgiving myself when I am unable to focus on a conversation because I am too busy working out where my younger child has gone or whether I will be able to ask that other mum whether her son wants to come for a play date.
Recently I was reading Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren by Sarah Napthali, in particular, the section on “The Need to be Seen”. It resonated for me, not for any conscious need that I have personally ‘to be seen’, but because I realised that by actually ‘seeing’ others in the school yard as you drop off and pick up your children, you meet a need within them. And by meeting this need you create a space of shared experiences and connectedness that perhaps helps us all feel a little less self conscious.
I remember when I studied Psychology, I found the idea of “normalising” to be really obvious. That is, when someone expresses an issue you discuss how normal that feeling or situation is and highlight the universal experience. Although we are all unique and special, most of our experiences are not. This helps the other person to feel comfortable expressing their feelings and then to feel ok about what is happening for them.
So it is with “being seen”. In that moment when you lock eyes with another person and smile, you are giving a little nod to their inner self, their inner voices, their experiences, and saying “I am so with you, honey!”.
After all, we are all in this together. Right?