Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mean Girls

I thought cliques were done and gone once you left highschool. Wrong-o. Apparently when your kids start going to school, that curious "in" crowd and "out" crowd phenomena that dominated your pubescent life rears its ugly head. Except this time, you're in your mid-30s, it's the moms, and the "in" criteria includes seniority, number of kids, and the ever-elusive (to me at least) "craftiness" factor.

Last year was M's first year in preschool and we loved it. When I mean "we," I mean M AND me. M loved her class, her teacher and her new little gaggle of pint-size pals. Most of the parents were new to the school with this as their first time doing anything close to organized with their kids. We all walked around in a clueless daze, giddy over the little art projects our kids would trot out to us each day after class.

I bonded with four of the other moms. We all had two kids a piece and shared a fun, silly outlook on mothering. We relived horror stories about child-rearing, laughed at the ridiculousness of pregnancy, marveled in our little miracles, and compared notes on the minutiae of it all.

This year has been a little different. M hasn't had the strong bonding with any of the kids in her class that she had last year, and I have been equally noncommittal.

It all started with the first week of school, which scared the bejesus out of both of us. M’s class was twice the size of last year's. She was immediately intimidated. I'd see her at the start of class meandering about the sea of kids, not quite knowing who to approach, talk to or play with.

By the same token, at drop-off instead of hanging around for a minute to chat with some of the moms -- as I'd done last year -- I found myself rushing off. At first I thought it was the chaos of drop-off. The blur of screaming babies, frantic moms, coats everywhere, kids scrambling to wash hands before class, and hollering preschoolers facing separation anxiety for the first time would put anyone in oh-my-God-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here mode.

But, really, it was that the moms this year seemed...different. They appeared to already know each other and were always engaged in what looked like hush-hush mom conversations with no room for newcomers or interlopers. As the weeks passed, with each drop-off I started to notice the inner-workings of the clique and found that there were indeed requirements to make it into the inner sanctum.

1. Must have three kids. Yup. Two doesn’t cut it. You must have put in at least three-kids' worth of blood, sweat, and tears. Sort of like a hazing ritual. The youngest one still has to be an infant too -- preferably attached to your chest at all times like a badge of honor. Not sure if I’m ready, willing, and able to go through another stomach-stretching, nipple-pulling, sleep-deprivation torture episode to be part of the “in” crowd.

2. Must have been through this preschool once before with an older child. Seems trivial, but it sets up the whole seniority thing. I remember switching from private Catholic school to a local public school in junior high and wondering how in the heck all these kids already knew each other. Elementary school. They all had gone to elementary school together. Same story more than two decades later. Sorry...SOL on this one as well.

3. Must possess intricate knowledge of The Crafts. Now, I’m only guessing on this one because the times I have overheard conversations, I seriously have no clue what anyone is talking about. The only word that sounds familiar is “homemade” so I am guessing it’s about cooking and making things...from scratch. Shudder. In my defense, I have tried to do arts and crafts with M, but it typically ends up as an exercise in how quickly I can lose my patience. Ultimately, I’m annoyed, she’s annoyed and we’d both rather play dress-up. So, no crafts for me or my kid. I suppose I could try harder...

Marley has adjusted over the course of the school year and has a few pals in her class that she likes well enough. As for me? There are a few other moms that look just as on-the-outside as I do. I think I’ll start my own clique of mom nerds. We’ll be like in Revenge of the Nerds and take over the school. Our mantra will be, Fuck Arts and Crafts!

Lest you think this is all in my head, the husband took M to school the other day and called me on the way to work.

“Hey, what’s up with the moms at school?” he said. “I said ‘Hi’ to a group of them and they looked at me like I was a leper.”

I guess there is one thing that is even more loathed by The Clique than outsider moms. Dads.


galugo said...

Oh, did you miss the Secret Handshake meeting?

A wise friend of mine once said, "Don't bother to make friends with any of the parents in pre-school. You'll never see them again."

Juli said...

The other night, during at a potluck dinner at my son's preschool, I realized that after over three years, I still feel like an outsider. Because I haven't known the other parents as long as they've known each other. I was suffering terribly, but after a glass of wine, I rallied and found another outsider to cackle with. Making an effort is not always fun. Go nerds!

Cristie Ritz King, M. Ed said...

Ugh-same crap different schools. I just want to scream in the parking lot, "who let's your kids watch tv, doesn't bake well and sometimes has wine at 3:00 on a Wednesday?" Then when people raise their hands say, "cool, let's hang out."
You know they're out there and they are looking to be friends with you. Now that's in. ;)

Erin said...

My sister went through the same thing, then met the cool kids. It will happen. If it doesn't, make your own clique!