Sometimes I think I’d have reconsidered my position on procreation if I had known then what I know now about school drop off and pick up.
My kids are still young, so I’m not yet at the point where I can just join the line of oversized 4WD’s banked up in two directions on a street barely the width of a vespa and just shove them out of the car like they’re storming the beaches of Normandy.
I have to go in.
I’m officially an initiated, legitimate, bona fide “school mum”. And yes I did say those words through gritted teeth, whilst simultaneously oozing with self loathing.
Spending five days a week loitering around the school yard, dropping off and picking up my kids has been an eye-opening experience for me in playground parent politics.
Notably, that this is even actually a thing.
School drop off and pick up can be a combination of logistical obstacle course and social misery drenched in awkward small talk and Lululemon. And if I’ve learned anything from watching The Bachelor that I’ve been able to apply to the school run, it’s that not everyone is “here to make friends”. And also. Don’t be drunk and belligerent unless you want to be escorted out.
Here’s a couple of take away’s I’ve come out with after two years of navigating the school yard at drop off and pick up. The good, the bad and the morning breath.
My usual rule of “better late than ugly” does not apply to drop off.
I will literally wear an oversized hoodie every day just so I don’t have to wear a bra. Or whatever vaguely clean clothes were draped over the chair in my bedroom that morning.
Maybe I’d be doing the world a favour if I were less willing to look ugly in public. My school drop off aesthetic is generally a combo of “yes, this is the t-shirt I slept in” with a side serving of “extra in The Walking Dead”. Side note; if you can’t find the hot mess at school drop off, it might be you. It’s regularly me. Pick up, however, is often [but not always] far more civilised.
If you think you left High school behind in 1999, think again.
High school oft recreates itself in the primary school playground, in the form of mum cliques.
You might fancifully think that primary school is a social territory your children are entering alone.
You would be wrong.
As a person who will literally hide behind a street lamp rather than have to say hello to someone I recognise, initially I found this dynamic difficult. There are times that I’ve walked into the school yard and inwardly grimaced a steely “I see the assassins have failed” under my breath. I’ll give you the hot tip though; you’re gonna see these people for the foreseeable future so don’t be a knobhead.
For someone with an innate penchant for being a knobhead such as myself, this has been a steep learning curve.
And it’s not all bad. Over time, people who are going to become real friends will find their way into your cross-hairs. For the first year whilst wading through the putrid swamp of schoolyard small talk, my modus operandi was “find the parents of the other kids in my kid’s class and only talk to those people exclusively”, for better or worse. It took a couple of solid years but I now actually quite like chatting with other mums in the playground. I’ve just found the people who don’t talk about what other mums are wearing.
After school, your kid will have the memory of a 76 year old Alzheimer sufferer who was slipped a roofie. “What did you do today?” will be met with a series of optional answers. “Nothing”. “I don’t know”. and “I don’t remember” are the top three.
There are lists of fancy open ended questions on google devised by childless parenting experts [otherwise known as rampaging assholes] that you can ask your kids to elicit less monosyllabic responses, so if you’re less lazy than I am, do that.
If not, spend weeks blissfully unaware of absolutely anything your child does in school hours and hope no news is good news.
If there’s a 10% chance of rain in the forecast, there’s 100% chance that that rain will happen at the precise moment you walk out the door to pick the kids up.
There will be someone* looking for a park at pick up time in a giant SUV taking up the entire road because spacial awareness is not a thing they** have any concept of.
*that person will be me.
This person*** also probably parks like they’ve been blindfolded while a crazed ferret claws frenetically at their privates.
Sorry I’m a colossal asshole.
If your kids are anything like mine [I feel for you], they’ll want to stay at school and play in the playground with their friends for 647 hours after the bell goes in the afternoon. Because being with your friends for hours on end during the school day is not enough. Don’t be ridiculous, of course its not.
Pack snacks. Drinks. Emergency flares.
People will stand blocking entire thoroughfares chatting to one another. I’ve prepared a monologue to deal with these situations.
In my experience, school pick up dads are often awesome. But, also. Are not often Zac Efron or Ryan Reynolds. Don’t be too disappointed. Refer back to my first point as to why this is probably a blessing in disguise.
Note; if these guys also double as stay at home dads, this rare breed also tend to be overachievers in lunch box creativity to compensate for their lack of vagina and Married at First Sight episode debriefing ability. Shake them down for ideas if you’re into this kind of thing.
Don’t forget, if worst comes to absolute worst… there’s always OHSC!