Are you suffering from school-run-rage? It's the new road rage, and it seems parents everywhere are falling foul of it first thing in the morning.
As if getting your little darlings out the door and depositing them at the school gates on time isn't stressful enough, these days you have to contend with traffic chaos and other time-pressured parents spitting the proverbial dummy too.
Mum of one Catherine Mills admits to going into over-protective mother mode whenever she's taking her son Daniel to school. Two years ago while cycling with her son to school, Catherine had a series of run ins with a plumber who kept driving too close to the bikes. Eventually, she cracked. 'I chased him - on the bike - and stopped alongside him and shouted through the window which he then wound down. I then pulled my bike, with Daniel on it, in front of his van and screamed at him for a good five minutes, causing a tail back all the way down a major B road.' And that's not all. When the driver pulled away he deliberately swerved in the direction of Catherine's bike, so she reported him to the police. 'The next day i saw him again and he wound down the window and shouted at me, so again i gave chase on the bike, threatened him with all sorts then went straight back to the police to report him again.'
My sons go to an exceptionally lovely school in a seaside town with a wonderful sense of community. But I swear even in this town something in the chemical frequency changes come school run time. It's subtle yet unmistakable, as though some tiny atmospheric imbalance is unleashed during the frenzied half hour that is the school run. It probably doesn't help that there are no less than three primary schools in our little town - so the entire area goes into gridlock as a good proportion of the population battles to get to a variety of schools on time, impeded by delivery trucks illegally parked all along the hight street. It's the same in towns everywhere, and no doubt even worse in the urban jungle.
I pity our poor lollipop man who puts his life in the hands of disgruntled drivers and distracted parents every time he steps out into the road, wielding his lollipop as if he were Gandalf holding back the forces of the evil Saruman.
Once, when picking my three year old up from nursery, I returned to my car to find an irate resident ready to accost me. She berated me for blocking her driveway but closer inspection revealed that in fact a pop star in an enormous tour bus complete with an entourage could still have accessed the entrance to her B&B. I'm sure said lady lies in wait for me at pick-up time, and I've seen her pounce on other errant parents. I confess it has crossed my mind to mention that a parking obstruction on her driveway is probably not what keeps her customers away.
Colleen Bryant, a mum of three, recently incurred the wrath of a driver in the grip of school-run-rage. 'Somebody very nearly climbed out of their car to get at me because I pulled out in front of them, even though I checked first and indicated. They eventually settled for a long blast of the horn followed by a gesture that implied I should get my eyes checked. The area all around the perimeter of the school is always a complete bun-fight morning and afternoon.'
On the other side of the fence, my parents live just a few doors down from a primary school. I've watched parents turn up as much as half an hour before school pick-up time, apparently preferring to kill time in their car than walk more than a few paces or face a fight for the few precious parking bays. I swear some parents would happily choose a drive-in option if they could, dropping their little darlings right to the classroom door without having to turn the engine off, never mind set foot outside the vehicle. And don't even get me started on parents who park as though their car is the only one in all the world. After all, why take up one scarce parking space when you can have three?
I know we should rely less on the car altogether and my sons do cycle to school when the weather allows, but I so wish schools were built with adequate parking facilities factored in for parents. Somewhere to shelter from the rain as we wait at the gates at home-time wouldn't go amiss, either.
And where parking bays do exist at schools, I think priority should be given to parents who are accompanied by babies and pre-school children. Having to park in a side road five minutes away from school might not be a big deal when you've only got yourself to think about, but dragging a tired toddler with you is no mean feat, especially when that clock is ticking. What's worse is having to decide between waking a soundly sleeping baby or leaving them in the car out of sight while you dash to the gates.
Ultimately, it's probably time we recognised that all this rushing and wrath first thing in the morning is hardly setting a good example to the kids. So, just in time for autumn, I'm turning over a new leaf in a bid to resist school-run-rage.
From now on we're going to leave the house with plenty of time to spare, so that we can all arrive in zen-like state of calm. And maybe even in time to nab one of those priceless parking spots right opposite the school gates.
Are you familiar with school run rage?
Have you ever been a victim of school run rage or - whisper it - behaved badly on the run yourself?
Or are you zen like and super organised?
If so, what's the secret?