Thursday, 2 September 2010

Status Anxiety

Since we got back from camping in the New Forest, where Ella roamed in relative freedom with other people's kids, I've let Ella off the leash a little. She's pretty sensible and road safety aware so she's now allowed to cycle unsupervised around the few streets that make up our neighbourhood.

She gets a taste of freedom, I get a break and everyone's happy.

The other day she made a friend while out on her bike. Ella doesn't go to school in the village so it's a wonderful thing that she has a new play mate living just sec
onds away from us. She returned home with a phone number, written on a scrap of paper by the girl's mother, and a verbal invitation to play at their house the next morning.

I was so pleased for her that I called her dad to alter our childcare agreement (he was due to have her that day). I called the mother and found myself rushing into waffle mode in an attempt to prove I'm not a negligent mother. I mean, who else lets their seven year old out alone nowadays?

After gushing about Ella's 'just down the street for ten minutes' boundaries, my having a new baby and Ella needing to do play outside when I'm busy with said baby and she's bored etc etc I eventually paused for breath and New Friend's Mother (NFM) invited me to drop Ella off and stay for a coffee. Lovely.

The next day, I discovered NFM has a HUGE house with a swimming pool and zip wire for the kids to play on. What a result for Ella!

While having tea with NFM, who seems very nice, and her neighbour who had popped round (also very nice) NFM's father-in-law appeared and was introduced to me as "Lord So-and-So". Actually, she said his first name but I've substitituted So-and-So in respect of his privacy.

Now, I've been to boarding school with a Right Honourable so I'm not phased by aristos but I got to thinking that my lower social status might be a barrier to Ella's burgeoning friendship.

I'm sure NFM doesn't expect her daughter to hang out solely with the progeny of nobility, but I suddenly felt acutely aware of the class divide and anxious that I would be found out and promptly discarded along with my daughter.

You see, I still retain a vaguely posh boarding school accent. My parents, a teacher and a retired Army Major, are stoically middle class. The majority of parents at Ella's state school think I'm posh (in the main, they don't 'speak proper like I does' despite living in Henley and they're mainly blue collar workers or can't be arsed to work). It could be misleading to someone I've just met.

However, I'm married to a plumber, I live in low rent accommodation (albeit in a very posh area) and my approach to housework is lax on a good day and fairly shocking the rest of the time.

Also, thanks to her peer group, Ella now says 'fanks' instead of 'thanks', regularly drops her Ts, favours the word 'innit' and has stopped calling me 'mummy' in favour of 'mum'. I may have slipped down the ranks somewhat since leaving school.

So, during tea with NFM I became concerned that Ella and I may soon be deemed to be decidedly NOCD (
a deplorable yet strangely amusing phrase used by Army officers' wives when assessing new aquaintances, their child's new boyfriend/girlfriend etc meaning 'Not Our Class Darling' - and by implication not to be associated with).

NFM asked that I pick Ella up from her play date slap bang in the middle of Alicia's nap time. Because Alicia, and of course I, had suffered an unusually early start that morning I explained how keen I was to stay at home so Little Liss could have her full nap so please could she send Ella home at noon.

Suspiciously, to me anyway, she offered to drop Ella off instead (it's less than a minute's walk to my house). I casually breezed 'no need to worry, I am happy for Ella to make her own way back' whilst secretly cringeing at the current disarray of my home and garden.

Unfortunately, NFM ignored my preference and turned up at my teeny tiny two bedroom bungalow with her kids and Ella.

Thank god they didn't come to the door but, horrendously, they lingered by the gate - gazing in wide eyed surprise/horror at the knee high grass on my lawn (we've been away for godsake and busy, um, very, very busy), John's white van parked outside and the rolls of old carpet dumped in next door's garden (they're in the middle of redecorating).

To quote that floppy haired chap in Four Weddings and a Funeral Oh f*ck. F*ckity f*ckity f*ck.

On the bright side, J has now mowed the lawn in a fit of shame and I have taken to sweeping the floors once a day (it used to be once a fortnight) - and am contemplating mopping them in the near future. Once I figure out where we keep the mop...


Amodernmother said...

Somestimes I am very happy that this class things flies way over my head. NĂ©ed to see that cute little baby!

Paradox said...

Spot on, like alot of parents do, live in fear that someone will think less of them.
Allthough, I believe that if they are good people, like it sounded they where, they will not care about the difference in status, but more your way of being, as a mother and a human. And if they do not, would you really want your child to spend time in an inviorment where she can sense the dispase and horrible arrogans?
As I said, I do beleive these people are much more than there welth.
Relax and be a good neighbour, It is all in you to be a relax and loving friend

(excuse my Spelling, I am not brought up in private school, but a very good swedish Council school= in sweden most council schools are as good as a private one) and I admite, I am sloppy sometimes on the keyboard

susie @newdaynewlesson said...

Sorry for laughing. At least the grass got mowed lol.

Michelle Twin Mum said...

A fab post, visiting from the carnival. I hope you are firm friends now and all the worry about house etc is forgotten. Mich x