We all know the school gates are more toxic than a post-curry air bagel. Here is my guide to surviving them...
1. Regarding looking knackered in the morning
Firstly, I advise trying to get your partner to do the school run. If this doesn't work I suggest you take my lead and a) wear a poncho/cloak. (No one will ever know you're still in your nightie, and it serves brilliantly as a cover for morning abdominal gas/bloating) or b) home school.
2. One sexy parent mum and one sexy parent dad
There is always one of each of these in every school and invariably it is neither you nor your partner.
If you're lucky, your child will make friends with the offspring of sexy mum or dad and you will get to do lots of coffee/football/yoga mornings together whilst secretly checking out their house for signs of marital discontent.
3. At some point, your child will embarrass you
Perhaps they will do a drawing of you naked or make a passing comment to their teacher about "mummy's special grown-up juice" or about how your computer password is T**S. Perhaps, they will have written a story like the one my husband wrote, aged 7, about his mother's trip to the doctor's for a blood test which he entitled, "The Day Mummy Had A Little Prick" with accompanying graphics in crayon.
You may not be aware of said embarrassing reveal until Parent's Evening when the teacher smirks as you sit down. If said smirk occurs, demand to see your child's art folder and English book immediately and rip out all incriminating pages. (Not much damage can be done in maths).
Let me make it clear: you will see more nits during your child's time at nursery/primary school than Kerry Katona has seen white powdery granules (allegedly). My theory is that nits don't actually feed off the blood on your child's scalp, but off YOUR frustration. If you put a nit under a microscope you will see it clutching its little grey, opaque abdomen with its six little legs, laughing in the face of your nitty gritty comb.
NITS WANT YOUR TEARS.
They grow bigger from your loathing like Darth Vader off Luke Skywalker.
5. Cake/bake sales
I can't be doing with this bit of motherhood. It was totally NOT in the manual. I can barely cook as it is and I'm not likely to suddenly come over all Jane Asher and deliver something edible anytime soon.
However, I have seen the cupcakes at our local church school down the road and I can only conclude that angels, perhaps even the Lord himself, helps those mother's bake overnight in some kind of heavenly version of Masterchef. It's cheating.
6. There is always one teacher all the dads fancy (TILF)
"Ready for the parent's race are we?" she (the TILF) will beam as she skips past you in her lycra shorts on Sport's Day. Then she will laugh and you'll think, "Why is she laughing? Is it that obvious that I am absolutely NOT ready for the parent's race for fear of knocking myself out with my own breasts? Is it that obvs that WHEN I RUN I WEE?"
Yes, she is hot and young and sort of 'springy' and your husband will definitely volunteer to do parents evening this year. But just think how foolish your husband will look trying to be cool, charming and sexy with his knees around his ears as he sits on one of those tiny chairs made for 4-year-olds. He will look like a sad, demented praying mantis ogling an untouchable bird of paradise while you are comfortably at home eating choccies with a George Clooney DVD.
7. PTA stands for Parent's Torture Association
Don't misunderstand me. Most members of most PTA's are amazing people who work their butts off in a bottomless pit of indifference, malaise and apathy. Sadly however, PTA's can be a little bit like Enid Blyton's Secret Seven, embodying aspects of British culture that are embarrassingly anachronistic. Often run by a select group of posh people in corduroys who think selling lemonade at the school gates will transform an inner London State school into Bedales, some PTA's are mind-bogglingly weird and also, scary.
The one time I was on a school PTA, I was in charge of the Christmas grotto with a fellow mum. We spent £300 building the most beautiful grotto you've ever seen; fairy lights, fake snow, we practically had LIVE reindeer I swear! Only to find we had misread our "PTA Grotto Instructions". We were expected to RAISE £300 not spend £300.
But I tell you this, you cannot buy a memory ... ah, the looks of wonder on their little faces. And that was just the other PTA members before they booted us out. Demoted to 'normal parent' status me and the other mum were destined to walk the linoleum corridors of shame for all eternity.
(Note to any friends reading this who are on the PTA at my current school, you are clearly not any of the above and I love you all).
8. Christmas fair or no fair
You can try it all: Winter Wonderland, Ye Olde Fayre, Holiday Party, AN Other PC Name, but everyone just wants to see a fat bloke dressed as bloody Father Christmas at the flipping Christmas Fair during bloody, flipping Christmas time.
Everyone wants to pay £1 to sit on a sweaty man's knee (the thing we're told not to do every other day of the year) and receive a present worth 10p (ideally from Woolworths RIP) that has been wrapped in tissue-thin paper from the local street market.
All the parents want to drink mulled wine from the huge bubbling vat that normally contains (and still slightly tastes of) soup, and all the dads want to get hammered enough to chat up the TILF.
Everyone wants to pay 50p to win back the same bottle they contributed to the tombola, and EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE loves a raffle. (Although if you do win First Prize, everyone will hate you).
9. From caterpillars to... big, sweary pupae
By the time your sproglet leaves primary school, they will have transformed from pant-wetting adorable into an incredible mini-adult aged 7 with an impressive repertory of swearwords at their disposal.
"Give me the child till the age of seven and I will show you the man," said someone very clever who knew their organically-grown shallots as this is definitely true of boys who fight and wear their pants around their bum crack well into adulthood. By 7, girls have mastered the art of looking disdainful and will have experimented with sideways pony tails. So it's not that they've learned nothing.
Think about it; unless you were the victim of serious bullying at primary school, the thing you probably remember most is the smells. The smell of lunches and disinfectant, the teacher's coffee breath, the dinner ladies and their polyester-pungent lady bosoms of comfort, the headmistresses office (whiskey and paper). Ah, the stench of the communal mouthpieces on the recorders and the miraculous farts from the bottoms of babes... primary school is a veritable nasal tour de force.
We don't remember if we had a heated, sprung-floor gym, an Iguana as a class pet or day trips to Venice. No, we remember if people were kind to us and whether our parents and carers picked us up on time. What remains of primary school is, well, a primary feeling summed up by a whiff. 'Tis a mere base note in the great perfume of life. Or as my 6-year-old would say, "School stinks".
**By Primary School Years I mean roughly the journey from ages 4-7.
Follow Sara Bran on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sarabran