I love meeting new people, which is lucky, since I’ve just moved away from my London home of 14 years to leafy Hertfordshire! I’m always striking up conversations in the park, in the playground, wherever. Of course it helps when you have young kids starting at a new school. Prior to that I was home-schooling for a few months as a result of the relocation, and I did struggle a bit at times. Perhaps people could sense my desperation to speak to another adult human!
So now my kids have got into school, I’ve really thrown myself into the PTA lark, and have been along to a couple of meetings. Having spent the last few years at countless business networking events, I’m fairly unfazed by entering a room full of people I’ve never met before – though the difference now of course is that I’ll see these people on a daily or weekly basis.
Initially I had gingerly volunteered as class rep, but I’m now going for it full pelt with the social engagements, getting together a list of email addresses and sorting out a coffee morning and (tonight!) a Girls’ Night In at my place to break the ice. It’s a bonus that we’re a Reception year — that’s probably what gave me the guts to be class rep: I’m not the only new person in the crowd.
There’s an interesting group of mums, with a range of personalities, experiences, career or life ambitions, skills and attitudes. It’s a fairly mixed bunch too, kind of a mini version of the wider community. I’m looking forward to getting to know them.
Let’s face it though: not everybody wants to make friends with other school parents — they may feel they have enough friends already, find nothing in common with them or just be shy. However from my point of view, it’s in our interests to get to know our fellow parents for several reasons. The fact is that a lot of us no longer live close to our families, and therefore don’t have a support network to fall back on. Instead we rely on each other to share lifts to a party or do an emergency school pick-up if we’re stuck in traffic. It’s about being part of a community with common goals, and just making things a little easier for each other. In this day and age, friends are the new family!
Another reason is that before long the children start coming home delighted with the new friends they are making, and wanting to invite them over or go to their friends’ houses. Now I don’t know about you, but I personally would be reluctant to send my kids over to some random person’s house. So getting to know the other parents is important to me, and gives me the reassurance I need in order to support my kids as they embark on their own journey exploring friendships.
One thing that PTAs often do well is community. Whether it’s a Quiz night, pamper evening, or parents’ disco (my personal fave!), the PTA are instrumental in bringing together the school community under one roof and giving us a chance to mingle and raise money for the collective benefit of our kids.
Sure, most of us are capable of making friends anywhere, anytime and don’t need the PTA for that. But I must admit it is a darn sight easier given the right time, place, atmosphere and opportunity to mingle. Right, I’m off to chill some wine for my soiree with my new friends – thank you PTA!
What about you? Did the PTA make it easier for you to socialize with other parents at your child’s school? Do you find it useful knowing them? For your social life, your child’s or just for support? I’d love to hear about your experiences.