Yesterday, I took my girls to soft play. It’s something we’ve started to do quite regularly, because I really see the benefit to their development in terms of climbing and running. I believe it is also good for them socially, since every time we go there are different children there, who they will make friends with and play with although they’re only together for an hour.
So I found it a little odd when I walked into the soft play centre and realised that I was the only adult there on my own. It seems that everyone else views this as an opportunity for the parents to socialise as well as the children. Which got me thinking, what happens if their friends can’t make it, would they go anyway or stay at home?
With this in mind, I took Libby for a drink at a local café today, and the scene was almost identical. Libby and I sat with our drinks, chatting to each other and playing a game together on the iPad. There were other children in there, but again there were no adults on their own. The other parents were chatting while the children squirmed in their seats and vied for attention.
When I come to think about it, even if we go to one of the children’s groups, the adults tend to sit in little packs, socialising with the same people every week. I’m starting to wonder whether the whole thing is a bit of a throwback to school days, when everybody wanted to fit in and nobody had the confidence to be different.One of the reasons why I’ve always gone out of my way to take the girls to groups and activities that encourage them to socialise, is because I don’t want them to grow up to be like me. I’m not a particularly sociable person, I don’t have many friends and I’m not very comfortable in large groups.
That said, since leaving school I’ve always had the confidence to be alone. I didn’t worry about not knowing anybody at university, being the only English person living in my flat in France or travelling around Australia on my own. The small things don’t bother me either, if I want to go into a pub or coffee shop for a drink, I just get on and do it. Whether anyone will come with me or not doesn’t even enter my thought process.
So now I look back to my school days and think about those children who were always the centre of attention. The popular ones that everyone wanted to be friends with, the ones who were never alone. And I wonder if they are the same people I see at the café, the soft play or the swimming pool who only take their children out if their friends are there.
I wonder if the children who were always with their friends in school ever developed the confidence to be alone. I wonder if they have ever been abroad on a huge adventure, lived alone or even sat by the fire in a cosy pub reading a book.
And I wonder if my desire to make sure that my children don’t grow up to be like me is a little hasty. Maybe my lack of confidence around people has led to a different sort of self-assurance that others don’t have. Perhaps the ability to be alone was one of the most important lessons I ever learnt. And I think it might even be time to accept that being like me isn’t such a bad thing after all.