Ever realized that the high school ‘clique’ issues started way before high school? As far back as, well preschool! And I’m not talking about the children either. It all starts with the moms. Perhaps it is like the chicken and egg theory. Is it possible that high school ‘mean girls’ grow up to become ‘mean girl mommies’? Or do ‘mean girl mommies’ influence daughters who become high school ‘mean girls’? I will let you be the judge of that. Suffice to say no matter where you run or hide, even with several years of the institution of structured education behind you this fascistic ‘school’ of thought will somehow hunt you down.
In my case deceptively disguised as the Drop Off/Pick Up mommy crew. Seemingly innocent enough, these mommies arrive together to hand their young babes off to the teacher promptly at 9:00 am and are back exactly at the same time just past noon to collect their children. The funny thing is neither of these moms actually car pool, they just appear from around the corner, strollers in tow, together. The mornings are usually a rush for everyone, so the drop off is quick and interaction minimum. Probably due to the fact that half the mommies most likely forgot to ‘put on their face’ (please refer to post: Sorry I Forgot My Face, which incidentally is completely counter intuitive with this post). Top that off with lack of caffeine, a tuckkar (encounter) with these lionesses in the early hours of the morning is best avoided. The afternoon pick up however, is another story.
There is a certain time by which the children need to be picked up otherwise there is a fine for each minute you are late. I am not kidding. The intention of course being to ensure no one ever ‘forgets’ their child thus avoiding possible future therapist sessions for the little darling. I fall into the scatterbrained lot who despite watches, smart phone apps and alarms still cannot manage my timings and am ALWAYS rushing to get my daughter. It really is stressful. I am usually found running up the street, in some sort of manic mode right till I get to the school door, where I quickly try to compose myself and then enter. Naturally consumed by only one thought; Get to the door before the clock strikes…..Cinderella really does not want to become a pumpkin, embarrassed to be the mother who was late, shamed by her own child. Sigh. It was only after I got a handle on the school run schedule that I noticed the ‘Mom Crowd’.
After picking up my daughter as I exited the school door, I started to observe that there were three to four mommies who would hang around just outside the school, having already got their toddlers into their strollers. I would usually give them a smile and nod of acknowledgment as I managed my way passed them to get to the street and catch the next bus. Soon enough I was arriving at the school well before pick up time. Early enough to observe that same group of mommies congregate. It was then I realized (after some strategic eavesdropping) that each had a child in my daughter’s section. It was really awkward standing there next to them, alone in the crowd, because apart from the civil smile, no one reached out to introduce themselves to me. I was clearly a new face; didn’t that obligate at least one of them to reach out? Suddenly flashbacks of being the new girl in school started filling my head and a familiar queasy sensation returned. I had moved around a lot in my life so had the ‘privilege’ of experiencing this title one too many times. But come on, I wasn’t age 4 or 7 or 12 or 17 or 23 any longer. I was a 31 year old adult (hmm admitting the age thing is going to come back and haunt me one day isn’t it) and I refused to be defined by the ‘new girl’ status yet again. I decided next time I saw these mommies I would make the first move.
As luck would have it, the next morning’s bus ride to the school allowed an opportunity to present itself. I ended up sitting across from one of those mommies and her son who excitedly pointed to my daughter and called out her name. My daughter waved back. Clearly no new girl issues for her. After this exchange of pleasantries between our children, it was only polite of us mothers to do the same. But instead of leaving it at that I made the effort to engage in conversation. And it turned out this mother had a very friendly disposition and it was easy to talk to her. I thought to myself, score! She would most definitely introduce me to the other mothers and save me from future wall flower status.
That afternoon I was looking forward to bumping into the ‘pick up’ crew. As I left the school with daughter in hand I saw the friendly mom from earlier talking to two others from the same crew. The woman dominating the conversation was visibly of South Asian descent and the rest were some type of ‘gora’. Immediately you feel a connection to your fellow desi, so I thought for sure this was going to be a smooth introduction. Excitedly (I kept my cool, don’t worry), I said hello to the mom I met earlier, asked how she was etc and automatically turned to the other moms expecting that introduction, any moment now..still waiting.. ok now this was getting awkward. South Asian mom barely broke from her conversation to briefly glance at me and continued talking to the other mom, who didn’t make any eye contact. Supposedly ‘friendly’ mom from earlier gave me a hesitant smile and turned back to listen to the desi mom. I used my daughter as an excuse to distract from that moment of potential embarrassment and moved away from the crowd. Wow. I felt like I was in the movie Mean Girls. What just happened here? Did I smell? Have something embarrassing on my clothes? I felt a little rejected and disappointed. I couldn’t figure this out. My mind then started to stereo type. “Friendly” mom was the weak mean girl, nice when on her own but in a crowd got dominated by the ring leader. This queen bee, if I may was of course Desi mom, who had probably earned her place by charming the ‘goras’ with her ‘exotic’ background and travels. There wasn’t room for two desi moms in that crowd. Did she possibly feel threatened by me? No, that couldn’t be true. I blamed my over active imagination and shook my head to rid it of these thoughts. I was determined to break in to this Mom Crowd, and by golly I was going to make sure it happened. (Channeling Tina Fey and Amy Poehler…)
Stay tuned, as I update you on my mission to get in with the Mom Crowd. Have you ‘new to the school run’ mommies ever experienced something like this before? Do you still have left over stigma of high school cliquish behaviour? How have you overcome it and more importantly how do you teach your children to be inclusive with other ‘new’ kids?
Since the above post How to Get in with the Mom Crowd went up I got an overwhelming response from a lot of fellow mothers who had experienced something similar or knew of a mom who had. So I thought, ok I must be on to something here, this is some kind of pandemic. I also did say I would keep you updated on further developments because I thought for sure I would encounter some blog worthy incident from these alleged Mean Moms. But I never followed up; I never found anything worthwhile to update you on. Here is why:
Having been the ‘new’ girl many times before I learned the only way to survive is to put aside your ego and try again. First impressions should never be your last. So I did just that. I reasoned that perhaps those mom’s didn’t break away from their conversation to introduce themselves to me was because they were actually engrossed in the talk. Maybe it didn’t occur to ‘Friendly’ mom to lead the introduction because sometimes that happens you just get caught up in your own moment. Yes I did feel I was put in an awkward situation and because I did not know them it was only natural for me to feel the way I did. If this incident however was symptomatic of how they all actually were I would not be explaining myself today. It turned out to be the last time I felt excluded because since then they have been approachable and inviting and certainly not the mean moms I originally thought. I have had the pleasure to get to know them as much as a mom can through kid distracted conversations 🙂
I am confident Mean Moms still do exist, because then there wouldn’t be any Mean Girls (or boys). I just haven’t encountered them- yet. But the difficult lesson to learn here is that you cannot hide from those first impressions. If you don’t want to get confused for a mean mom, be aware of how you can potentially come across to the outsider (admittedly my ‘thinking’ face can come off as ‘angry’) Otherwise the only other thing you can do is put in the effort to make sure they are NOT your last impressions.
As Phil Dunphy of Modern Family would say “You only get one chance at a first impression. I suggest Julia Child because it’s easy to do.”
Have you ever misjudged someone based on a first impression? Is it better to confront and deal with an uncomfortable situation or distance yourself from it? What has worked for you?