I thought I had a few years before the school gates' 'parent-gate' rivalry began, but alas it starts early and I'm only dipping in and out of attending baby groups, gulp!
The yummy mummies are out in force and they're here to form a circle with their clique. They hang out where you want to take your child at every group, swimming club and play centre around. Crikey! I'm grateful to be working because if I was a stay-at-home mum my self-esteem just may hit an all-time low.
'Lydia' pulls up in her immaculate cream Mini Cooper with 'Barnaby' in his Lacoste T-shirt: "Come on darling, let's see if Scarlett and Eduardo are here. Can you see where Eduardo's car is?"
I know what she's up to, and I'm guilty of it too - talking through your children to indirectly say what you want to, out aloud. But reading between the lines she is saying: we have friends here and come here all the time; who the hell are you?
As I enter the community centre, I stand there waiting patiently with the door open for them, smiling. Ignoring me, she walks past flicking her sleek blow dried hair (me with my half-dried/fried, rushed-out-of-the-house hair, trying to nail the reverse Ombré style from a bottle out of Boots).
At the front desk she proudly shows off a teeny baby bump to the play centre leader "It's a boy!" She shouts, looking around her. Am I expected to comment? I don't. She then trots over to a group of mums who huddle in a closed circle while Barnaby sits obediently on the floor.
In my naivety, I brought my son here so he could run around in a huge baby-friendly venue, socialise with other children and play in a sea of toys. In reality, this is a coffee morning with a hidden context - a catwalk competition, a social one-upmanship and dare I say it: middle class mummy mafia. Lydia may as well be blowing the conch shell in 'Lord of the Flies'. It's all egos and exaggerated peacocking.
I find I am now starting to analyse myself and my child - questioning why my husband and I gave our son what we call his unfortunate 'Friar Tuck' bowl haircut - chopped in all the wrong places and now growing out into a shaggy mullet (note to self: we must get to the salon). My jeans are covered in fluff and home-made play-dough from rolling around the kitchen floor with him. And let's not even talk about the chipped nail polish on these un-manicured hands. I text my friends who usually come here, but its snotty-nose season and they're all snuggled up at home with honey and lemon.
There are a few friendly faces I spot from a previous group who are really nice but I barely get a chance to have a conversation when I spy my toddler just about to pull a little girl's hair - oh lord! Not only am I the social outsider, my son is now the naughty boy who has a thing for grabbing hair and biffing other kids.
And this isn't an isolated case (not the biffing, the bitching): I'm in the library at what seems like a sweet little sing-song, rhyme time. But what I find is a parental parade; 'Momagers' in the making, little children instructed to play the part.
There's the insecure talk-through-your-child again: "Where is Lizze, Tommie and Dolly? They usually sit here. Look, Beatrice, there are some new people sitting in their place." Then there are the blimin' songs...not only is it like an audition for the first round of the X Factor, where mums ensure every single syllable is heard; but what on earth are these songs? How many nursery rhymes are there these days? I'm having to re-learn a whole new set, secretly Googling them on my phone in the hope I've got the right version. I'm pretty sure somewhere there'll be a degree in nursery rhymes soon.
Ladies, can't we all just be nice to each other? Let's put away our conch shells and get back to basics. Aren't we all here for similar reasons? To give our children a safe place to play, to have fun and support each other.
I get that humans naturally form social groups to protect ourselves, I naturally gravitate towards my friends if they're in the same vicinity too of course.
But if you spot a 'drop-in'; a 'newbie' from time-to-time, you never know she might just be friendly too, if you try...