There was a programme on last year called ‘Gates’. It was a comedy about a set of parents who knew each other from the school gates. Daughter had only just started school and I was able to take her and experience the gates for myself, and that programme terrified me. I was off work under unpleasant circumstances and not my usual robust self, but I was terrified of meeting some of these characters. One- up-manship, trying to run off with husbands…what was I letting myself in for?!
But in actual fact, I’ve made some lovely school gate friends, and I don’t even do the school gates now. What’s lovely is that between us, we manage to piece together the goings on at school. She said what? He did what? Our children have us like amateur Miss Marple’s on our own, imagining the worst, but a couple of well- placed texts, Facebook messages or if it’s possible, get togethers, and we work out a more likely version of the truth.
I rely on a couple of mums who are able to do both end of the school day, who are generally In The Know. I tried to do the whole PTA thing but work commitments got in the way. Maybe one day. Because what I’ve found out for definite is that you can’t rely on a five year old for accurate information, especially when Daughter’s intel is usually coloured by her interpretation that everyone else can do something she can’t, or has something she hasn’t. Or there’s some underlying hint that she’s been left out or ignored, quite often by the teacher. It’s a good job I have my mum friends as jigsaw piecers, or I’d be up on the bounce at least once a week. And being the clever little minx that she is, she knows exactly what pushes my panic button, leading to some kind of indulgence for her. One of her favourites is that she either sat on the bench or walked round the playground ‘alone and lonely’. It’s enough to make me pack in work and home school, just so she never has to go through the agony of being left out. And then she’ll forget and tell me some jolly jape her and R have got up to.
It’s great to have a set of friends with children the same age, and most of the girls Daughter knows are the oldest, so we’re all feeling our way. I’m convinced they’re all getting it more right than me, especially those who send their children in with a different lunch every day (Daughter has the same every single day) and I’ve even heard tell of cous-cous. But nutritional values notwithstanding, there’s something wonderful about knowing you’re not the only one who doesn’t know this, that or the other. And they’re a lovely set of little girls. Not sure which one told Daughter that babies can come out of your bum, so hands up if that was your little cherub! And what’s even nicer are those odd occasions where we get to meet up and we’re J, or J, or J (plenty of J’s at our school gates!), or R or H or whoever and not just someone’s mummy. Because despite our little angel’s solid beliefs that our only purpose in life is to be their mummy, sometimes we do like to go out without spare socks and hand wipes in our bags. Although revelations of recent times show that even on child-free occasions, some of us carry Rapunzel hair pieces round in our bags. You know who you are..!