One of the scariest social rites in life is turning up at the gates for the first day of school.
The cliques, the playground bullying, the Darwinian struggle for the survival of the fittest... and that’s just the mums. Many a mother has suffered the twice daily ritual in silence (eight years and counting for me) but this week the seething cauldron of rivalry which is the assembly of school-run mums was exposed to national debate, by such diverse persons as a community bobby and celebrity Myleene Klass.
Community police constable Jonathan Hall — who patrols the road outside his local primary in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, described school-run mums as ‘wailing, hissing, feral cats’. They park on double yellow lines, block driveways and ‘engage in a vicious game of cat and mouse’ in a bid to drop their little darlings as close as possible to the school gates. “When challenged...the parent stares out from their metal box, with a look of pure hate, a look upon their face saying: ‘I would splat you with one swipe of my paw,’ ” he wrote in an official email to school-run drivers.
Myleene Klass might have been forgiven for hiding in her ‘metal box’ (or mighty 4x4) this week, after she was publicly ticked off by the head at her daughter’s school for tweeting about a children’s party.
Last week the former pop star turned Classic FM presenter ridiculed two fellow parents from her seven-year-old daughter Ava’s class who asked guests at their girls’ party to chip in a tenner to buy one little girl a Kindle and the other a desk. (“Very studious choices!!”)
Myleene called the idea ‘bonkers’ and shared the messages with her half a million followers on Twitter. She also posted her reply. ‘For Ava’s birthday she has requested a real, live Unicorn. I will be collecting Unicorn money via her book bag, in the playground or at www.getwhatyouregiven andendthismadness.com.’ She added: “Please don’t feel any pressure from the countless emails I intend to follow this up with and clog your inbox”.
I had a good chuckle at this. My inbox currently houses about 200 round-robin messages from parents at my son’s school who seem to have nothing better to do but show us all how ‘involved’ and well organised they are.
But do I have the right to share them with the world and humiliate the parents and by extension their kids?
No. As Myleene’s school headteacher wrote in her newsletter: “If you can’t tweet anything nice, don’t tweet anything at all.” Yes, asking for a specific sum of money for a kid’s present is crass – and those ‘studious choices’ are a none-too-subtle exercise in mummy one-up-manship. But Myleene’s criticism is a bit much coming from a self-styled ‘mumpreneur’ who has ‘monetised’ her kids since conception, selling everything from a book about ‘My Bump and Me’ to her own Mothercare baby clothes.