How to Break into Playground Cliques
One mom seeks expert advice on the playground politics she can't seem to break in to.
Q. My 2-year-old daughter loves going to our local playground but I hate it. All the mothers there seem to know each other and I feel like they're part of some clique that doesn't want me as a member. I've tried every ice-breaker I can think of but I'm still getting the freeze. Is there some secret handshake I have to learn in order to break in?
A. Boy, can we can empathize with any parent put off by playground politics. And what you're describing brings us right back to those cool kids in high school who wouldn't give us the time of day. But high school is the operative phrase -- as in you're not there anymore. Now you're an adult and the mother of a little girl who obviously benefits from outside play -- it's time for you to move on. In fact, one of the lovely advantages of becoming a parent is that it forces you to put aside your own self-doubts and focus on doing right by your child.
Here's your chance to take the leap and be happy about who you are today (not "then"); to know who your real friends are and savor them; and to no longer give a hoot whether a group of strangers wants you to be their new best friend. Consider yourself the lucky one: Playground bench chatter tends to get a little hypercompetitive on the parenting front and it's often chock-full of misinformation, so you probably won't be missing much.
Most important, all that socializing can lead to inadequate supervision of your child. So forget the gang of snobby moms. Instead, try reaching out to another lone mom or dad who's marooned at the sandbox. Finally, get a little perspective -- these days from your child's toddlerhood will pass by in a blink. Enjoy them while you can.
Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead are the authors of The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guide to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale).
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2005.
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