I am a bit of a loner. I cherish my individuality and the freedom to make personal choices. I am quite wary of group situations where my individuality might be compromised. To my mind I equate groups with The Lord of the Flies and Piggy. I see groups as essentially dangerous as people can do awful things when in a group – things they would not do if alone. (the present discussion in Israel about what happened in January in Gaza springs to mind)
And yet being part of a group is such an essential experience in daily life. Whether the group is your family, a group of strangers at the park or anything inbetween. There are dynamics that happen as soon as you have a group a people together. In many ways I am trying to master an understanding of these dynamics and what role I play in affecting the group dynamics.
I took DS to the local Gymboree group last Thursday. It was our first time and we didn’t know anyone there. I placed DS at the entrance and went inside myself and called him to join me. I know that he likes to observe before he participates and didn’t want him feeling like he had been plonked in the middle of something unfamiliar. Anyway, he was looking around, taking in this new environment and smiling at other children and parents – and no-one was really taking any notice of him (normally his smiles stop people in the street) – so he turned around and crawled out.
This made quite an impression on me. I do want DS to have positive group experiences – I want him to feel safe and accepted (both things I do not feel). And it tugs on my heart strings that he wasn’t getting any attention.
To put this all in perspective – he is only 13 months and hardly expected to be interacting with other children in a playful way. I am pretty aware that this is my issue – and yet as a parent I do feel it is my responsibility to give my DS the skills to feel like he can handle himself in a group.
To finish – we are still in couples therapy (with DS) and yesterday we spoke about my diffculty in groups. I remembered as a small girl owning a pair of purple shoes. I was so proud of them – I think it was the first brihgtly coloured item of dress that I had owned – with my mum preferring brown and even dying red shoe brown and dressing me in dark colours. These purple shoes just had me over the moon. Until my group leader in the Brownies group (little Girl Guides) that I attended shamed me for wearing purple shoes when the uniform says brown. The joy in finally having something so beautiful in my eyes was destroyed.
It is possible to see the connection between this memory and my dislike of the group – like I cannot be myself in the group.