Recently our youngest son started at secondary school which brought to a close thirteen years in total doing the school run for both son’s and whiling away time in the piranha pond aka “THE SCHOOLYARD”. I’m not sorry. As parents, we look back on periods of our children’s lives and lament the passing of various phases – their first steps, first tooth, first words etc. etc. Let me tell you, hand on heart, this is a phase I will not be mourning, I could have skipped out of the school gates in Maria Von-Trapp mode, belting out ‘The hills are alive with the Sound of Music’, so happy was I!. I didn’t do that of course, what do you take me for? It might have ended up on social media or worse, in the school newsletter!! Please don’t misunderstand me, I loved greeting my offspring and hearing all about their day, my youngest usually wanted to take half the class back to ours for dinner and my eldest would rugby tackle me with a hug, before flinging his school bag at me and climbing the nearest tree! It was the politics of the school yard that would send any sane body to the roof, namely me.
One Mother’s day, several years ago, my boys bought me a book titled ‘The School Run’ by Sophie king. I think they picked up on my daily angst… This book is a very accurate, humorous insight into the going’s-on of seven families, whose lives collide on the school run and how their relationships unfold from inside the school gates. If I had one teeny tiny criticism, I think Sophie should have upped the bitchiness level a notch or two and then it would truly reflect the majority of school yards up and down the country.
From what I’ve learned during my thirteen years, parents fall into various camps, whether by accident or design. At the top of the tree, you have the mouthy, want to be everybody’s friend, Boden clad super-mums or yummy mummies, if you like. Now this group will definitely keep their friends close but their enemies closer. They are to be found chatting at the gate, having dropped off their cherubs in the morning, just killing time, before the latest coffee morning in support of whatever’s in vogue at that time. This group must be applauded for their efforts in raising funds tirelessly for the school and being first to sign up for every fundraiser. Of course they have the time, they don’t go out to work, so why wouldn’t they hold the world’s biggest coffee morning! You know this bunch, you’ve seen them in action, they run the show, hold court and are generally the bitchiest of all. Comical to watch from the side lines as someone needs to be the queen bee and this bee will rise up quickly to claim her title, putting the other contender’s beaks firmly out of joint. Hats off to them really, they produce the healthiest, tastiest, most organic cakes for the school fete, run up Roald Dahl character costumes for world book day out of the remnants of flour sacks while teaching braille to their three year old, just as an extracurricular activity.
A little further down the power pyramid are the minions, the super-mum wannabies, call them what you like. These minions have been groomed by the super-mums early on in proceedings to do their bidding and generally behave like lap dogs, waiting for a scrap or two of praise to come their way every now and then. This group are the worker bees, they make the super mums look good but they will always be in their shadow and no amount of ‘likes’ on Facebook will change that status unless the super-mums move-on.
Coincidentally, just like in the classroom, the school yard has its fair share of misfits – the uncool parents, who in their defense are just being themselves and not conforming. And like in the classroom, they gravitate towards each other. You can bet they won’t get invited to join any closed social media group chats and neither will an invitation to the year two mums Christmas party makes it’s way home in their child’s book bag. Lucky escape, I say. Don’t pity this group as they are blissfully unaware of their status in the popularity tree nor could they give two hoots, from my observations anyway.
I’m going to briefly mention the fashion statements that were made in the schoolyard, unbelievable! Small example, silver stilettos’ on a Wednesday afternoon with neon hipsters, lovely! This is a whole other blogpost…
I don’t know if I fall in to any of these groups, I suppose I would need someone else to tell me but I can assure you, I was neither a super-mum (not organised enough) nor a minion (not great at taking orders). For the first couple of years of my eldest son’s schooldays, I was more to be pitied than laughed at, owing to sleep deprivation caused by a new baby and working night shifts. Most days I arrived at school in a haze of fog, everything was foggy, we were lucky to get there unscathed. My head felt like cotton wool had taken up permanent residence and I had trouble with bright light, as in daylight, so even on a dull day, I was sporting my sunglasses, and not in an ‘I’m too cool for school’ way. All I needed was a white stick to complete the picture. I’m sure I was considered very rude from time to time as it’s likely I unintentionally ignored people. (What would Freud say?) Those days are a blur. I congratulated myself if I successfully got us back home in one piece without losing either of them or myself along the way. I even considered home-schooling at one point, although I didn’t voice this as I’m sure my husband would have had me committed. Once things settled down, I changed my work hours to fit in with school times and so I was no longer chronically tired or certifiably insane. By then, I had cleverly mastered the art of arriving at the school yard at exactly the time the kids came out thus avoiding any hanging around or forming alliances and finding myself in a group by default. Phones are a great addition here as you can be oh so very busy on an important call, or indeed just browsing so no ‘people engaging’ is necessary. All hail the smartphone! Over time I’ve had many invitations to Tupperware, Jamie at home and Avon parties, but these are not my scene at all. The invitations dried up towards the end as I always said “Oh thanks, yes, maybe, I’ll check my diary “and then just not show-up.
I’ve noticed a small group emerge over the years, I call them ‘the supers’, they carry themselves with an air of nonchalance, and they might be terribly arty, intelligent types or maybe have just moved from the Outer Hebrides. They’re DIFFERENT not dorky and they don’t care. They don’t need a label or to belong to a group. Maybe they travel with the Bolshoi Ballet Company or work for the UN, whatever the case, they are above the politics of the schoolyard. Something to aspire to maybe?
While primary school is now a thing of the past, secondary school does not come without its challenges but we’re getting there. Just University to conquer next and then we’ll be home and dry, right?