The Four Ways This Dad Messed Up The School Run


Now that both the kids are at school, my better half has returned to work.

That was a big step for her. It was seven years since her last job interview, but after four interviews she had two job offers. Good work!

As the new job begins earlier, and my job has flexible hours, it’s now me who takes the kids to school in the morning. It has been eye opening. What is normal for most mums is new to me, and I have already learned some skills, from my mistakes, that will help me survive the utter mayhem that is

Taking the kids to school

Observation #1 – Hair

Bobbles, pins, slides, bunches, bows and plaits. I’m a 45 year old man so I know what these words mean but learning how to throw them together to the satisfaction of a six year old school girl has been like learning the skills of a mid-level wizard. That dude who went viral for using a vacuum cleaner and a bobble to do his daughter’s hair wouldn’t last one day in my house (and not just because the kids would be freaking out cos there’s a stranger with a hoover in the living room).

School

Eve’s hair is curly/wavy. Jenny’s is straight. They have different bows, clips and preferences. To my shame, I did not know this. Damn, there’s a whole subculture in my very house that I didn’t even know about. Try and put the wrong bow in the wrong person’s hair and BOOM! Nuclear war. Still, we’re getting there. I’m getting there.

Observation #2 – The Journey to School

“It’s my turn to open the door!!!” Wha? Another dynamic that happened while I was at work and am totally unaware of. There’s a seemingly ritualistic nature to The Unlocking of the Front Door in which I must partake or they look at me like I’m an extra-terrestrial. In my first week, I left without the kid’s school bags. Idiot. I won’t make that mistake again. (I will).

The school is literally on the other side of the main road from us. It would take you, or I, about 9 seconds to walk to the school gates. Only the small children are not you and I. This means that the actual route to school begins by walking away from the school, and down the hill to the lollipop lady. Then we have to cross, walk back up the hill then down another road to get to the zebra crossing, which only around 3% of drivers respect. Then down the hill and up some stairs and, Jesus, is my Fitbit recording this?

School

Now there’s something else. The lollipop lady. The first few times we crossed, I said ‘thank you’ and she ignored me, only saying good morning to the girls. So, we don’t say thank you? Is that offensive? Is that another rule? So, I started saying good morning instead and she beamed a reply to me. I’m fairly certain that I’ve now cracked the lollipop lady conversation etiquette. We even got the Christmas card rule right.

Observation #3 – The Playground

I’m new to the playground, and the wait until the bell arrives. All the other parents know each other and have their regular places to stand and people to talk to. I‘m beginning to identify the different groups of parents and am slowly building up a picture of who has the power. I’m very much like a new prisoner in the yard picking up who is in what gang, and who is liable to attack me in the dining room if I look at a gang member the wrong way. So far, I haven’t been attacked.

School

The children aren’t bound by such social conventions. Many a time, I’ve looked down to see a kid, who I don’t know, standing at my feet staring right at me. I don’t know the correct response in this situation. It’s generally frowned upon for a guy by himself to start a conversation with a five year old that he doesn’t know in a school playground. I resort to looking at my own daughters for guidance. Yesterday, this happened, and I looked at the eldest (6) who just shrugged. I looked back and just went with “hello”. The child of unknown identity looked satisfied with that and walked off.

I’ve made the mistake of thinking that seeing the same parent in the playground on a number of occasions means that a bond of familiarity has been formed. It apparently hasn’t. I find this out when I say “hello” and they walk past, looking right through me. I don’t care how confident you are in life, when that happens, the inner you is a stranded child in a sea of adults. You’re two feet tall and broken. Well, you are the first time. After the ninth time, I’m over it.

Observation #4 – The Bell

My two children have very different reactions to the bell ringing. The elder (6) runs over and shouts “kiss cuddle!” then goes and joins the queue for the classroom. The youngest (5) says “I’m not going to school” and holds on like I’m a vine over a ravine. I have to heave her over to the classroom door where the teacher coaxes her in.

Both reactions are heartbreaking. The eldest’s confidence and ability to run away without looking back is obviously great for her, but I don’t like the feeling of redundance that comes with that. The flip-side is that the youngest’s reluctance to go in herself makes me feel like I’m abandoning her, even though it’s a necessity. In short, dropping kids off at school makes me feel awful.

Doing this has made me a whole new level of parent, which the majority of you probably already do. You’ve likely read this, chuckled, and thought “amateur”. So be it. I am, but I’m learning and enjoying being more of a dad.

18 Comments

  1. 10 January 2018
    Reply

    I currently do the preschool run with my daughter twice a week. It feels like a small military operation each time. I feel relieved to have a happy daughter who is always excited to go, but I also have the unsettled pang of ‘what’s this? My little girl doesn’t need me?!’

    It’s a rollercoaster of emotions as is all elements parenting.
    Refreshing to hear your observations. We do all these funny little rituals to keep the peace. I wonder if it’s any different with young boys instead of girls?

    • 14 January 2018
      Reply

      My experience is that my son was far more in his own world, jumping around, while the girls are more observant of what’s going on around them. But that could just me my kids!

  2. msedollyp
    10 January 2018
    Reply

    Its an ever moving thing, the whole morning routine/going into school. Our boy in early years would cling on and cry but now in Y5 walks confidently round to the back playground without a look back, too big for kisses and hugs (in front of everyone at least). Enjoy every moment of this new chapter!

  3. 10 January 2018
    Reply

    Oh this is brilliant!!! The ‘prison yard’ bit definitely tickled my bones! I shall be giggling at that all day now. I’m sharing this for you 🙂

  4. 10 January 2018
    Reply

    We’ve got all of this to come! My daughter goes to school next year and I am already worried about getting the school run done without forgetting something or missing an important date!

  5. 10 January 2018
    Reply

    I found this really moving (great title too, so much more clickable than my suggestion). Hope your youngest settles in quickly and your eldest gives you a kiss-your two sound exactly like mine. Also how weird is the Lollipop Lady! x

  6. 10 January 2018
    Reply

    This has made me chuckle so much. Especially about the it’s my turn to open the door. We have it when we get home with the back door only no one will shut it because it isn’t “their turn” This would be ok I guess if we didn’t live in Sweden and it wasn’t the middle of a cold winter!!

  7. 11 January 2018
    Reply

    Welcome to the world of the school run. Our lollipop lady is lovely but I don’t think we appreciate what they go through. Ours has been threatened a few times. Hopefully you will make some school run aquaintances soon

    • 14 January 2018
      Reply

      Your lollipop lady was threatened? What on earth could have prompted that?!

  8. 11 January 2018
    Reply

    This post made me giggle. The school run for me started last year and I am glad to say I am a PRO now, lol.

  9. 11 January 2018
    Reply

    Reading this makes me wonder what the school gates are going to be like for me! I’m going to hang around down the road and then run down when the kids come out haha

  10. 11 January 2018
    Reply

    The school playground – I have a real love/hate relationship with it! And as for getting them ready for school in the first place, it often feels as though I’ve done a whole day’s work before we’ve even left the house! I’d like to say it gets easier…

  11. 12 January 2018
    Reply

    Welcome to the playground! It’s an interesting place isn’t it. I love the whole walk to school thing your kids have going on as well, they do like their rituals

  12. 13 January 2018
    Reply

    Fantastic post! I’m a Mum and can relate to it all! I’m not that Mum who will stare right through you either!!

    • 14 January 2018
      Reply

      Glad to hear it! I need lessons on how to talk to people / make friends though #socialanxiety

  13. 14 January 2018
    Reply

    The dreaded playground gangs ! They all have their little groups – it’s like being back at school sometimes . I like to get to school just as the bell is going to go so I don’t have to stand with any of them haha

  14. 19 January 2018
    Reply

    Hahaha! I love this post! I know exactly what you mean about the hair demands of pre-pubescent girls, as thouugh I don’t have children of my own, when I visit my best friend and her daughters, I always get roped in to doing their hair in the morning (“but I wanted a little bun”, “I wanted two plaits”, “you said I could have a french plait today”)… Sorry girls, you didn’t eat your breakfast quick enough, so there’s just no time! Haha! x

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