Good God, we’ve reached PART TEN of the series that the critics have said… nothing about so far (although someone on Mumsnet said it was ‘smug’, to which I say: Yup, fair point). This series has been concerned with one thing only: To observe and be judgmental (and smug) about the different species of Parent on the School Run.
If you’ve come straight to this chapter, and you’re confused by some of the terminology used here (The Gang, Belligerent, etc), why not peruse the prior pamphlets for proper ponderance? Yes, why not?:
(Alice recently did Roman numerals, and I’m totally into using them now)
Disclaimer: None of the examples of Parent in this series are people I know in real life, although in this episode I am referring explicitly to one actual example of a person I know – me. But you cannot claim it’s about you, because I’m me, and you’re you, and that’s that.
(Please note: Throughout this series, I have observed the UK species of Parent. If you’re prepared to fly me around the world in first class, put me up in posh hotels, feed me gourmet food, keep me entertained in pole-dancing clubs (ssssh, don’t tell my wife), and pay me a decent salary, I would be happy to provide a guide for other countries as well. Let’s start with France. I like French food.)
Up to this point in this Spotter’s Guide, the genders of the parents have been more or less ambiguous. However, for reasons that should be plainly obvious, of all the species of Parent you can observe on the School Run, I associate myself with The Dad most of all, and they’re a category all of their own.
Being a Dad on the School Run can be quite daunting. There aren’t many other Dads around to ally with, and the natural state of The Dad is to be stoic and somewhat detached from the MumScrum. The Dad will probably feel somewhat intimidated by The Mums, particularly if The Mums form The Gang, because it would remind him of his own schooldays and being wary of gangs of chattering girls. As everyone knows, a close-knit gang of confident and chattering girls is more terrifying than an entire squad of Kamikaze Bomb-Sharks. You know the sort of thing that girls are capable of: Ridicule, laughter, name-calling… Oh God, it’s all coming back to me! STOP LAUGHING AT ME, GIRLS!!
The solution to this is of course something I wish I did all those years ago: Wear a cape. I look amazing in a cape. If I had worn a cape to school, all the teenage girls would have thought I was amazing, and they might have shown me their bras. Sadly, I did not know this back then, and I didn’t see a bra until I was 32 years old (or, if you prefer, XXXII). Still, I’m older and wiser now. I know that a cape opens many doors and can reveal many shelves, all of which contain bras.
If a Dad does not have a cape, I recommend some sort of ornate cane. A few years ago, I had a nasty bout of Plantar fasciitis which was not funny at all, and meant that walking was excruciatingly painful. With great presence of mind, Sarah immediately ordered a cane from Ebay. It arrived within 24 hours (XXIV hours), and is a lovely, dark wood with a brass eagle’s head as the grip. The following morning, I hobbled into school to much appreciative comments from The Mums. Nobody flashed me their bra, but it definitely got impressive nods. Now if only I had a brief debilitating condition that required a cape…
It goes without saying that Dads are as much a part of The School Run as Mums. And, speaking personally, I love doing the School Run, and rather miss it when I can’t. It’s a nice excuse to walk, I get some quality chat time with my girl, and I get to natter with other mums.
Before I got chummy with The Mums, I was The Lonely, Quiet Dad on the School Run. And yes, I felt exposed and awkward. I’ve since talked to other Stay At Home Dads and they too often feel this way. I kidded myself that I was happy being quiet, but actually, I envied The Mums with their easy nattering and friendly support. There’s an edge of slight paranoia to being a distinct and obvious figure on the school run, and my advice is this: Make friends. Have conversations. Otherwise, there are many long years of Primary School (VII years, to be precise), the daily ‘Run can be a lonely place, you’ll see the same people most days, and through our kids we will have something in common. There will be something to say to one another.
But observe the Dad. He is standing out somewhat. He is unsure of himself, and this is society’s fault. There is something still a bit uncanny about The Dad on the School Run, and The Dad knows this. We shouldn’t treat Dads on the School Run as some sort of novelty, and yet The Dads on School Run are still in the minority, particularly Dads who do the drop-off AND the pickup. The uncanny factor is amplified here. If the Dad is quiet and nobody talks to him, do people start to wonder about him? Do people wonder if he has employment issues? Do people find it strange that there’s no Mum around to do the ‘Run for the family? Does the Mum of the family feel guilty for not doing the School Run?
Often quite shy, sometimes The Dad is the Quiet One. Sometimes – especially if he’s wearing boring ‘office’ clothes – he can be the Dump-And-Run type, or at least he marches into the playground, says goodbye to the children, and off he buggers. Sometimes he can be the Fighty One, so it’s best to always approach warily, talking in a calm voice, and carrying a stick (preferably with a bra tied to it, it will both distract and sedate him).
Sometimes he’s a Stay-At-Home-Dad, in which case, respect is to be accorded, in case he feels a bit chippy about it (not me, nooooooo). A Dad is often a voice of reason, and more appreciative of Gang-related gossip than you might think.Every School Run Gang needs a Dad, otherwise The Gang does not have balance in its Force. The Dad often brings a perspective to School meetings that are welcome. However, A Belligerent Dad can be a slightly overbearing figure in the playground, and can be a bumpain to the teaching staff if a male Belligerent starts haranguing. Generally, though, the Dad is a welcome presence in any playground. That said, when a Dad is placed alongside another School Run Dad, they become taciturn, withdrawn, unable to make proper eye contact, and will probably talk about cars, work, last night’s sportsball, planes, computer games, etc.
Plus Side: They’re men. Men are great!!
Minus Side: Could be slightly embarrassed at being one of the few Dads on the School Run. Angry at society for not recognising the vital role Dads play in the upbringing of kids. Why must Dads have to be the breadwinners? Surely men can look after the kids as well?? Fuck society!
Yeah, constantly ranting about that sort of thing is a bit off-putting to other parents.
APPEARANCE: Usually between 5’4″ and 6’7″. Have the ability to grow a beard, can often speak in a deep voice, and will possess a penis, although this is hopefully not normally visible on the School Run. Prefers trousers.
CALL: “Get off me, woman! I’m married!!”
HABITAT: Most men hibernate during Wednesday. Can often be found in an underpass watching squirrels fight tortoises. Bets are exchanged. Last time I went to a bout, I won £C!!