Crikey! Well it’s that time again, people. As you may have gathered by now, we are exploring the different species of Parent on the School Run. We’ve already looked at a fair number, so if this is your first installment, I offer you a hearty welcome and I urge you to start with Part One, then go on to Part Two, followed by Part Three, and then look at Part Four. Read Part Five for continuity’s sake (although it is rather good, as are all the others, don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but…), and then Parts Six and Seven to get up to date.
If you like all this nonsense (and I don’t blame you if you don’t, and equally don’t blame you if you do) feel free to share it amongst your many lovely friends and acquaintances using social media (other forms of social media are also available).
DISCLAIMER: None of the examples in this series are people I know in real life. This guide is meant as an observational in-field guide of various Parent species, and do not relate to individual characters. If, by some coincidence, you know me personally, and feel you either know one of these characters, or indeed ARE one of these characters, then I can assure you that you are being stupid and wrong.
(Please Note: This Spotter’s Guide is the UK edition. The Worldwide edition will be shortly published, just as soon as somebody has paid me a fuckload of money to carry out research. So far, no takers. I’m told it’s not commercially viable, but that’s utter nonsense. There is clearly a need)
The Alternative Parent
You know the sort: Dreads, tattoos, Nepalese shirt, no bra – and that’s just the men LOL! – and piercings, etc., right? Wellllll, not necessarily. Alternative parents can be the source of much muttering, tuts and gossip if a conservative Gang is holding court at the school gates. Alternative parents walk their kids to school, or (holy crap!) RIDE A BIKE!! I mean, proper radical stuff, yeah? In any case, they’re doing things their way. And some people have a problem with it.
The Alt Parent could also fall into any of the School Run Parent Stereotypes. Often they’re The Quiet One. Sometimes they might Not Give A Shit. They can be The Belligerent, or The Organiser. In any case, unless they’re The Fighty One, they’re actually the one you should closely ally yourself with.
It takes guts to be unconventional. And you don’t need to call your child Raincloud, and listen to Throbbing Gristle in order to be alternative. Alternative Parents come from a wide range of backgrounds, and come in all shapes and sizes. And despite the dreads/tattoos stereotype, they dress in all sorts of ways – sometimes very conventionally – but always in their own way. The only thing Alt Parents have in common with each other is that they don’t always conform to society. They might do this in small ways, or glaring, big, freak-flag ways. This doesn’t mean their kids aren’t brought up with high standards of discipline – if anything the Alt Parent might be a firm stickler for manners, strong work ethic, morals, being politically aware at a young age, self-confidence, and social consciousness.
The Alt Parent can be competitive in a weird way (like letting you know their kids have already been to four large music festivals by the age of 9), but it’s not the same as outright Bragging. It’s more to do with reinforcing their own distinctiveness than it is to positioning their child at the upper end of some sort of hierarchy. And sometimes, the Alt Parent can have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about society. But frankly, when you’re faced with some occasional tuts and disapproving glares at the way you and your family are dressed, or because of what the family believes in… well, you’d be a bit chippy and defensive too.
The Alt Parent is more concerned with being seen as a ‘cool’ parent. They want to be relevant, up-to-date, relaxed and liberal. They are often artistic, and despite their steadily advancing years, they often like to let it be known that their enthusiasm for loud, banging/crashing, dissonant, pounding, dancey, moshy music is still running at a near-teenage level. Alt Parents will still have an abiding love for obscure music (or at least, obscure enough for the other parents to be slightly baffled) long after most of the other School Run Parents have given up and bought Adele CDs (“because it’s popular!”), or the latest Now-That’s-What-I-Call-Driving-Music compilation as a way of listening to Queen like they used to. The male Alt Parent, in his original Future Sound of London t-shirt, is more likely to still be seen at the back of local gigs, nodding his head in a knowing fashion, just not down the front anymore. His back is dodgy, he’s more tired these days, and he usually is home by 10:30pm most weeknights.
The Alt Parent will often be the most imaginative; producing the most interesting dioramas for homework, putting on the most imaginative parties, in a way that might make other parents jealous. In some respects, this could be seen as a sort of passive-aggressive Bragging. However, the Alt Parent would never openly admit to getting involved in anything so confrontational as an outright brag. Instead, they let the organic food, the political awareness, the uniquely decorated house, the clothing, the beautifully crafted trinkets, the homemade art, the music taste, their child’s self-confidence and free spirit, and the family’s refusal to toe the society line in some way, speak for itself. It’s not bragging, it’s just a better lifestyle, and the other parents are quietly envious.
The Alt Parent is often honest, principled, down-to-earth, practical and thoughtful. Sometimes they’re much more ‘switched on’ than other parents. They’re the ones who will call the School out on any Schoolcrap other than The Belligerent. They might question School policy. They’re the ones to pick up on bullying in the playground and do something about it. They’re the ones who, when asked by The Organiser to do something, will either throw themselves into whatever it is and make it work, or flat out refuse with a damn good excuse. Will often be the voice of reason if a Gang becomes a Mob. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the Alt Parent is a drug-addled loony, a flake, or some sort of dangerous subversive. The Alt Parent usually knows what they’re doing.
Plus Side: No-nonsense, practical, emotionally connected, can be the best ally, the kids are no less maladjusted than their classmates, and are often savvier than the classroom average because the parent has taught them to see through society’s bullshit.
Minus Side: Tangle with at your own risk. Might have some very funny ideas that may be hard to swallow if you’re more in tune with the mainstream of society. Likely to insist on only playing with wooden toys and not eating sweets, which as we all know, is crazy-talk and wrong (unless their kid is allergic to plastic and/or diabetic, in which case, fair enough).
APPEARANCE: Non conformist, bright colours, dreads, beads, impressive jewellry and/or impressive trousers
CALL: “Yeah, it’s a good dance, innit? Persephone learned that at Shambala this year whilst listening to Asian Dub Foundation…”
HABITAT: They’re the ones on the school field after school in the summer months blowing bubbles from a bubble sword and getting their kids to learn Diablo tricks.