1. The School Run
You promised yourself that this term, things would be different. Now it's 8.07am, and here you are once again. More bags hanging off you than the Buckaroo donkey. Swearing openly as you battle with the booster seat. You are officially the world's angriest chauffeur since Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.
2. The Lunchboxes
Back in 1985, a Wagon Wheel and a floppy Mighty White sandwich would suffice. These days, terrified of your child being flagged as a malnutrition risk, your kitchen becomes a deranged deli counter each morning, as you fill a compartmentalised lunchbox with soft fruit, seeded bread and yoghurt. Which your child will then trade for popping candy...
3. The Pickup
It's not just that primary playgrounds are more intimidating than the exercise yard at Wormwood Scrubs, with freakishly oversized Year Sixers bombing around. It's that God uses pick up as his chance to punish parents for their sins of the flesh, smiting you daily at 3.15pm with a biblical rain.
4. The Impractical Timetable
To support parents as they ease back into a challenging job market, the school day helpfully kicks off at 8.50am and ends at 3.15pm. Which basically gives you just two employment options: lollipop lady or night watchman.
5. PTFA Contributions
Another week, another wad of begging letters in the book-bag, chiselling you out of £3 for Sports Relief, £5 to cover the fire-station trip and £10 for Meerkat Awareness Day. Examining your bank statement at the end of the year, you'll realise you'd actually have spent less sending them to private school.
6. The Art Projects
"For this term's topic of medieval Britain," demands the letter, "we'd like your child to construct a historically accurate motte-and-bailey castle to present next Friday".
So begins a shameless cheat-athon, with every parent in school sitting up until 3am, waiting for the papier-mâché to dry with rods of dowel holding their eyelids open.
7. The Schoolgate Politics
Even now, in your mid-thirties, there's a school hierarchy to respect, with the alpha-mums holding court while the underlings nod, fake-laugh and agree that Lucy's mum is a selfish bitch for not breastfeeding. On the plus-side, at least you don't get bog-flushed these days.
8. The PTFA Press Gangs
"Hi there!" trills the woman with the terrifying grin as she stops you in the corridor. "We're looking for a few volunteers to erect the marquee for the summer fete, man the face-painting stall and iron the dinner ladies' tabards. You're not doing anything between two and five on Saturday, are you...?"
9. Cake Sales
It's a racket that not even the Sicilian mafia would have the balls to dream up. First you lovingly bake a batch of fairy cakes. Then you hand them over. Finally, you buy them back for a fiver. Ever get the feeling you're being cheated...?
10. Class Assemblies
Brilliant: you've taken a half-day's holiday to cram yourself into a miniature plastic chair and watch a gaggle of strangers' kids mumble inaudibly about the journey of the cacao bean. We're not expecting the classically-trained delivery of Brian Blessed here – but would it kill them to enunciate...?
11. Recorder Practice
We get that children expressing themselves through music can only be a good thing. We just wish it didn't have to be through the recorder: an instrument-from-hell that your child will toot incessantly like your kitchen is an '80s rave.
12. School Fetes
Bat the rat. Soak the teacher. Guess the weight. At the rate you're forking out 50p pieces, you'll burn through more cash at the school fete than the roulette tables of Caesars Palace. By 4pm, broke and sunburnt, you'll be ready to take out your frustrations on the crockery stand.
Primary school is a veritable pick 'n' mix stand of exotic illnesses for your child to hoover up and bring home. After a few days back, they'll have a barking cough that sounds like Mike Reid arguing with a sea lion. Which leads us onto...
In this gleaming future-age of apps and cloud storage, there's something faintly medieval about your child coming home with a lice infestation. Still, it could be worse. It could be worms. And once your child shares a Primula sandwich with grubby Eric from Reception, it will be worms.
15. Holiday Envy
You want to be happy for your childless friends as they bomb off on a bargain fortnight in the Bahamas. But it's soured by the knowledge that come July, prices will spike like the Greek national debt and you'll be reduced to fighting over sun-loungers at Center Parcs.
16. The Classroom Bear
God help us: here comes the shoebox. A cursory flick through the classroom bear's journal – which takes in everything from Premier League football to Spearmint Rhino – confirms that this pint-sized playboy has an infinitely better social life than you. He's like a furry Calum Best.
17. Sports Day
You couldn't score tickets to Wimbledon or the World Cup – but all is not lost, because you've got a front-row seat at the white-knuckle spectacle of children balancing eggs on spoons. Even worse, you'll probably be hauled up for the parents' race, and see the disappointment in your child's eyes as you lumber in fifth, tongue lolling like a thirsty dog.
18. Other Children's Uniforms
For once in your life, you've been a good parent, washing and ironing the uniform the night before and glowing with uncharacteristic pride. Typically, it's at this point that you clock the name tag, realise this cardigan actually belongs to another child – and that you'll be handed your child's yoghurt-streaked snot-rag in the playground tomorrow morning.
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