Bean is making friends at nursery. I know it doesn’t sound much, but to me, IT’S A BIG DEAL. Not too long ago on a fetid, scorching morning, I
took dragged him along to that toddler gym hooha that sounds like Bumble Bots. I thought it’d be fun. I swiftly realised my mistake. But it was too late. Like a limpet he attached himself to my torso with unprecedented force, every time I attempted to lower him to the floor or show him a brightly coloured crash mat, he reacted as if I going to stick him a pot of molten lava. I persevered. I kept taking him. I took him to other things, messy play and toddler groups and God awful Come and Sing sessions. He wouldn’t have it. I had to hold his hand CONSTANTLY and continuously reassure him that everything was OK.
Slowly, very very very slowly, and surely he did get better. And now, a few months after starting nursery, he’s making friends. Not that he didn’t want to play with other children before or want to make friends, he was just way too preoccupied with my proximity from him to notice anyone else. Now I’m out of the picture at nursery and we’ve got that separation anxiety sort of tampered down, he’s making friends all over the shop. Today he had a moment when I dropped him off and started to cry as I was leaving, a little girl he’s made friends with ran up to us and looked SO worried, I could’ve cried myself if it wasn’t for all the awkward questions I’d have to answer from the staff, she held Bean’s hand and with a hiccup he stopped crying.
My heart burst a little bit.
I wanted to plonk myself down with a coffee and sit and watch him and his little mates interact because it’s just so novel, again, that’s probably not advised, there are laws about that isn’t there? Reluctantly, I walked home.
*Does swooshy, wavy movements with hands*
Four years ago.
The air conditioning wasn’t working, there was a heat-wave in full swing, the windows would open barely a couple of inches and the atmosphere was thick with nervous energy. I felt so disconnected, it was as if I wasn’t even sat in the same room, more a fly on the wall. I’d watch the couples enter the room, tentatively, almost embarrassed. I’d observe them interact with the other couples in the room, introducing themselves, awkward, not quite sure what to say. They’d say hello to me too of course, shake hands, exchange pleasantries and we’d sit patiently, waiting for the midwife to lumber in. To tell us in vivid detail about third degree vaginal tears, you know the ones where your two holes get torn into one hole, and violently shove a creepy doll with dead eyes through a plastic pelvis with a bit too much enjoyment, the fucking sadist.
So many people promised me that I’d make new friends at my ante-natal classes, I actually half believed them. We were all in it together. We’d all be mates, our children would be lifelong friends, and we’d all grow old in some jolly EastEnders-esque bubble, without all the murder and adultery and fun stuff, obvs.
But erm, yeah, that didn’t happen though, did it?
Apparently, just because we were all swollen and sweating, fanning ourselves with our Bounty packs and downing bottles of water, didn’t count as common ground, not enough to build foundations of everlasting friendship anyway.
I did try. Honestly, I did. I even made inane conversation about breast pads and epesciotomies and Britain’s Got Talent FFS while trying desperately not to fall asleep on the formica tables. Cos that’s what you do, innit? You make polite conversation, you ask questions, which if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t care what the answers are either way, you learn about the other person, you might even feel so inclined to sneak in a little tester remark that you’d much rather be laying on your sofa, in the most inelegant fashion possible watching Deal or No Deal and your bump kicking the TV remote around on your belly, rather than in this sweaty room with more hormones rampaging around it than a sodding comprehensive school. You might. Maybe.
But for me, without having a large glass of wine in my hand and a few more in my bloodstream and slash or a few mates to cushion me, I think I did alright actually. Pleased with myself, I went home, laid as unladylike as I possibly could upon my sofa and watched Deal or No Deal and looked forward to next weeks ante-natal
social gathering offering.
Fast forward a week, I sit down, I say hello, I remember a few people’s names, I ask the lady pregnant with twins how she’s doing, I smile. All seems nice. But AHA, what is this? Everyone is talking amongst themselves, of their meet up a few days ago in a coffee shop and then of GOING FUCKING SHOPPING afterwards! Conversation swiftly moves on to a few of them going to Kiddicare together, probably to admire the miniature shopping trolleys together and put photos of them pushing them around the store with MUCH hilarity on Facebook. Probably. The brunette lady Rachel with the beardy husband, is now Rach. RACH. Someone’s throwing a barbecue at the weekend for the lot of ‘em and one of em’s raving about how they’re gonna bring some bloody designer sausages you all simply must try. After my upteenth attempt to join in, I give up. No one even LOOKS at me.
I spend the remainder of the session getting really into what the sadomasochistic midwife is going on about while she’s waving a pair of forceps in the air with abandon and an untrustworthy glint in her eye and ignore my self esteem nervously gnawing upon its on fist in BLIND PANIC. On the way out I sneak a look at the little A5 slips of paper one of the less scary health visitors had printed up for our first session, with all our names, mobile numbers, email addresses and due dates on it, so we could take ‘em home and all become BEZZY MATES FOREVS INNIT. Honestly, the poor woman even drew flowers and hearts on all of them.
My number must be wrong, right? I check, and recheck and check again three times.
Nope. It’s correct.
My self-esteem whimpers and plummets out of my arse into a heap on the floor tiles.
Wait for it, you can hear it drawing a shaky breath if you listen closely.
WHY?! Is it because I’m younger than you lot? Did my tattoos scare you? Because I’m not wearing a wedding ring? That I don’t drive an Audi? THAT I’M NOT WEARING FUCKING BIRKINSTOCKS or have a partner sat next to me called Seb or Ralf or SIMON with an ironic beard and BOAT SHOES and a job in “in the city”?
I can’t help but envy how children forge friendships so effortlessly. How there’s no politics involved. It’s purely a case of “You like shoving breadsticks up your nose? I DO TOO! Let’s be friends FOREVER!” Appearance, religion, race, education, career, social status, bank balance, number of stamps in your passport from foreign lands or whether you’re on Jen or Angelina’s side, simply doesn’t come in to it.
But overriding all that lark, I’m actually just proud of my Bean.