I am constantly drumming the importance of good manners and standards of behaviour into my son. Particularly where school is concerned. If we go out directly from the afternoon school run, I offer terse reminders that he is 'in school uniform' and should behave accordingly.
I jab my fingers into his shoulder blades and claim passers-by will report any impropriety straight to his headmaster. I order him to keep his voice down, his gait brisk and un-slumping, his head held high.
I am part Victorian parent, part Sergeant Major: my expectations and my standards are high. So why, oh why then, did I recently feel the need to throw a total tantrum myself in front of (what felt like) every parent, teacher and child at the school? Oh, and a few council officials too.
Whatever possessed this normally well spoken, well turned out - some might even say Yummy Mummy - to go from Boden-catalogue woman to fishwife-chav in the space of five minutes? I can only put it down to a bout of When Mums Go Bad...
The day had started badly: I'd dressed in a hurry in an outfit I wouldn't usually give wardrobe space to, let alone a public airing: the component pieces were fine, but the overall look did rather scream 'market fashions': skinny black jeans, heeled knee high boots, and a stripey hooded sweater. Stella McCartney I was not. Plus, we were running late, books were missing, and it was grey and mizzly both in my head and outside.
The council offices next to my son's school let us use their car-park for dropping off as long as we don't queue. The car park was almost full when I arrived, but there was a car TRYING to get in a parking space which it obviously wasn't going to fit into - I knew the driver would give up after half a dozen attempts and so was hovering to zip into it once she did. There were no other cars behind me, so no queue, until one of the Stupid Little Council Men came roaring up into the car park and started revving up, EVEN THOUGH HE COULD HAVE DRIVEN ROUND ME. He then honked his horn to attract the attention of his prowling colleague (Inadequate Little Council Man, who is employed to monitor parents' usage of the car park).
He RAN over, practically salivating with desire to pull rank, RAPPED on my window (which immediately had my hackles rising) and demanded I 'moved along'. I explained the situation. He puffed himself up to his full height of approximately five feet nothing and further demanded I 'move along'. I became more and more livid at a) his stupidity, b) his arrogance and c) his addressing me as though I were a toddler.
A row ensued. I would not (and by this point - could not - an interested crowd had gathered) back down. But I couldn't stay in my car snarling and raging forever, either. My son needed to be deposited at school and the parents craning their necks and flexing their ears enjoying the show needed to get to work.
I needed to draw the row to a conclusion. He was insisting I move along, I was repeating over and over that I was about to pull into a space. Finally, I snapped. Shoving my car into gear, I called him a Pr*at and made to pull away. He said I was charming. I screamed back that I could be FAR worse than that and would welcome the opportunity to do so. I was furious and ranting. He went off and 'reported' me to our school ground staff so I yelled some more at him from a distance as I zoomed past them, boy racer style, and across to the other car park, my poor child cowering in the back seat.
Then I had to do the walk of shame past him, several other council workers who had come out to see what all the shouting was about, our school ground staff, dozens of parents and all my son's friends. If that wasn't bad enough, once through the school gate my son whispered to me: 'Mummy, you've got your hoodie on inside out'.
I almost cried with embarrassment.
I relayed my tale of woe to my friend Cherrie. 'Oh, you're a disgrace!' she screamed, 'I love it! Did I ever tell you about when my Nicholas was at pre-prep in Hampshire?'
She had not.
'It was v. posh - had a minor royal and everything. Anyway, there was a very prominent Celebrity Mum there - she was very, very glamorous but at the same time quite rough - would sometimes turn up in last night's clothes with boobs very much in evidence. Headmaster fancied her rotten and used to let her double park when no one else could, and would come running out with his tongue hanging out to see her. 'Oh, Mrs Celebrity Wife! How lovely to see you'. On a daily basis she used to be VERY foul mouthed in front of the kids and effing and blinding at other mothers - I never had any idea what about - I don't think she did either, most of the time. She was a total disgrace, a real When Mums Go Bad candidate. I shouldn't have liked her but I really did. The school gate needs mums like that - and like you!'
Like me? I've only Gone Bad once, and I fully intend it to only be a once a year occurrence at most - neither my blood pressure or my son's sanity could cope with any more than that.
Veronica, mum to a six year old daughter, 'fesses up to Going Bad twice - not in a sweary or shouty way, but just by being that bit too 'forward'...
'My daughter had only been at her new school for 6 months when my working hours changed so I could pick her up. First two days I was scrutinized silently by Boden mummies and, on day three, struck up conversation with one when our dogs sniffed each other's bums.
'It was all going really well - we were talking about what I thought of the school - so I ventured a joke about how I couldn't help but notice the number of young and frankly quite saucy male teachers there were. She laughed so I elaborated, particularly about one 'Mummy Moistener' (yes, I said that) who taught the other year 2 class. You know when you meet someone new and just try too hard? Well, after that she totally blanked me. I tried a few times to wave or say hello but it was clear I had not passed muster.
'Some months later I was at the local pub with some other school mothers when she walked in. I told them my story, expecting to be reassured that her clique were a bunch of snooty cows, but was met with horrified silence and nervous sniggers: The teacher I had branded a Mummy Moistener was her husband...
'We're at another new school now and things are much better since I've learnt that a closed mouth gathers no feet!'
What's your worst 'When Mum Goes Bad' moment?
Have you disgraced yourself in front of the Head?
Embarrassed yourself in front of other parents?
Made your child cringe with shame at your school gate antics? 'Fess up here!