Well, gosh. We’ve come to the FINAL PART of my Spotter’s Guide to those crazy creatures, Parents, in their natural habitat – The School Run!
If you’re new to this, then you’re probably wondering what is going on, and what you’re doing here. Just to put everything into context (and to waste probably about 30 more minutes of your precious, and ever decreasing, lifespan), here are the other species of Parent on the School Run:
PART ONE: The Gang
PART TWO: The Belligerent One Who Always Argues With The School
PART THREE: The Organiser
PART FOUR: The Fighty One
PART FIVE: The One Who Doesn’t Give A Shit
PART SIX: The Quiet One On Their Own
PART SEVEN: The Alternative Parent
PART EIGHT: The Bragger
PART NINE: The Dump-and-Run
PART TEN: The Dad
Read, enjoy, and the next time you do a School Run, silently observe all the different species of Parent. Hopefully you will have a greater understanding of your fellow participants on the School Run (remember that you’re an example of a species yourself). Hopefully this may give you an insight into the different behaviours and social rituals. And hopefully, nobody is going to march over to you and demand to know why the fuck you’re staring at everyone through binoculars and scribbling in a well-thumbed notebook.
DISCLAIMER: None of the examples in this series are people I know in real life. Don’t worry, it ain’t you, guys.
(Please Note: I’m talking British Parents here. Other Parents in places foreign to me may well gather in different ways).
Here we go, last episode…
The One Nobody Seems To Like
There is always a Parent who nobody likes. It’s a Parent who is, to all intents and purposes, just like any other. But look at them on our imaginary November morning. They don’t stand out in a crowd at first glance. They’re not made of teeth. They don’t leave a slime trail. They’re not hissing insults at everyone. They’re not drunk, they’re not shouting. They don’t look awful. But look closer. There are subtle indications to their pariah status. They’re not alone, they’re usually talking to someone (sometimes talking at). But all around is a large space, and people don’t generally interact with this Parent. Nobody wants them in The Gang, and if they are in a Gang, they’re a pretty isolated bunch. Nobody wants to hear their Bragging. Nobody is interested in their petty and pathetic reasons to be Belligerent. No one really wants to take part in anything they’re Organising.
The One Nobody Seems To Like is a mystery. The only certainty is that nobody really likes them. Maybe they’re slightly obnoxious at the kids’ birthday parties? Maybe they really lost their temper at someone else’s kid in an unreasonable fashion? Or maybe they’re a bit too Alternative, talking too much about their astral projection therapies and curing cancer using lumps of charcoal? Maybe they’re a silent bully, presenting a friendly if slightly frantic appearance to all the other folks on the ‘Run, and yet anonymously picking on other Parents behind their backs, shopping unemployed or disabled parents to the benefit fraud investigators for no reason whatsoever, other than to abuse the system in a pathetic attempt to get some sort of power? Maybe they’ve been Fighty too many times? Maybe they hide their Dump-and-Run child neglect behind a veil of respectability and wealth?
The Gang all mutter about them. The Quiet Ones hope they don’t get cornered by them. The Organisers roll their eyes if they promise to take part in the fete. The Dads smile and don’t really engage much with them.
Whoever they are, they’re just disliked by everyone. Maybe they’re misunderstood? Maybe no one has given them a chance? Or maybe they really are just dicks?
As in much of society, there are some people who are gregarious, some people who are more introverted and prefer smaller groups, there are people who are natural loners and are content to be left to themselves, and there are some people who everyone just abhors.
That one person breaks down the careful School Run society on this November dawn. Everyone shudders as they pass by. And this is when things turn dark. People mutter. Why are they so disliked? What did they do? A quiet murmur goes around – they’re a bad parent.
That’s it. That’s the kiss of death on the School Run. The Bad Parent. For reasons that are not completely clear, the word is that they are Bad Parents… and that does give justification to dislike them, doesn’t it? But you see no obvious reason to believe this. The kids look and sound fine, they seem a happy family. Maybe you just write them off as being another Quiet One, but no, this person does talk to people. They engage in a way that Quiet Ones do not. It’s just when they engage in conversation, there’s a subtle change of tone in body language. A keen Parent-Twitcher would notice all the other Parents’ hackles being raised, weight shifted around on the feet, the conversation is a little stilted.
You chat to the Gang – their hivemind despises this Parent. A lot of quiet hushed conversation is muttered, and you realise that there are some serious issues. One parent says “I’d like to hit him/her”. Oof. That’s a bit harsh. Based on what? Some innuendo?
One day you find out. You find yourself alongside the parent, who like all the Parents on the School Run, you’ve effectively known for years, except you’ve rarely spoken. So you chat, and you converse, and all the rumours you’ve heard start whispering at the back of your mind, and you realise that, while not the outright Beelzebub you’ve been warned about, the One Nobody Seems To Like is definitely unnerving you. They laugh too readily. They try to be too funny too often in a slightly unctuous way, but what they’re saying isn’t funny at all, but a bit annoying. They talk in a jittery, high-pitched chatter. Their conversation is awkward and stilted, and you realise that actually, they’re a bit too intense. They say some things that, while not outright horrible, are a little bit unpleasant – subtle hints of racism or homophobia, but nothing that would make you snap back. They’re definitely Belligerent towards the school. They drop hints that some of the other Parents are not as honest or law-abiding as they appear, and this also makes you feel a bit uneasy. You’ve heard nasty gossip on the School Run before, but this seems more than just petty. No, there’s something you can’t quite put your finger on, but it’s definitely there.
That’s it? They’re intense? Is that it? But no, then all the innuendos come flooding back. Nobody likes them – it’s rumoured even the teachers don’t like them at all. This has a negative effect, even on the kids. Nastier parents might even suggest to their children that you don’t hang around with the Unpopular One’s offspring. Bit unfair, that. It’s not the kid’s fault they have an intense unfunny parent. But everyone’s buttocks are clenched at the big birthday parties – if the kid is invited, will the Parent show up? Tight anuses are only relaxed when The Unpopular One does a Dump-And-Run. Phew. Could’ve been cornered there, and would’ve had to make polite British conversation over cupcakes and tea. Ugh! The very worst thing ever!
Plus Side: Well, at least it’s not me. I’m pretty sure it’s not me. Phew!
Minus Side: Yeah, but would anyone tell me if it was me??
APPEARANCE: I dunno, they’re just annoying
CALL: Screechy, squawky guffawing. Nasty, obnoxious, unpleasant noises.
HABITAT: The same School Run as you, unfortunately
PARENTS ON THE SCHOOL RUN: A SPOTTER’S GUIDE
We see them, every day. Not just the Unpopular Ones, but all the different species of Parent. Here is where the child-bearing of our nation congregate and jostle for position. Things are said and decided. The School Run is the ultimate five-minute parliament of the Parent Nation.
The entire community of the School Run is only together twice a day, on weekdays only, for just a few minutes, in every corner of the nation. In that time a whole range of social interactions take place. Some of which have lasting effect on entire lives. Some just breeze in and out of the daily ritual. It’s a very discreet blend of body language, conversation, gossip, and rumour.
The School Run is a weird mirror of how we view ourselves and our kids. We project ourselves onto the Run – how we dress, how we discipline our kids, how we come across to others. It’s where snap judgments are made. It’s a place where both Parent and Child are on display.
It’s also one of the few but regular times we see our kids with their peers, in the brief two minutes before they line up and march into school, and when they blast out at the end of the day. Their behaviour, and ours, are on display in front of all the other Parents. No wonder we behave in such exaggerated ways on the School Run. It’s a social exhibition in front of all the other creatures, and we are on show as much as our children. It’d be a shame to come out as anything other than a winner; nobody wants to be seen to fail here. No wonder it has become a competition.