24/05/2012 06:55 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Primary Days: Playground Politics

The Primary Days: Playground politics Alamy

A couple of weeks after starting school, Betty expressed a huge interest in using the school bus. I have to admit that, despite some reservations about letting her go to school on her own, I was quietly relieved, because I slightly dread school drop-offs and pick-ups.

The journey from our house to the school is three minutes, along a B road and over a Postman Pat style bridge. So once I had dispelled my anxieties of how fast the bus driver goes (I deliberately followed the bus home from school one afternoon, and ended up overtaking it out of pure impatience), Betty and I reached a compromise. I now drive her to school in the morning and she gets the bus home in the afternoon.

So now I only have to do the school run once a day, and I am very glad. Even at the age of 37 years old, the school playground reduces me to a paranoid wreck - in true schoolgirl-esque style I have thoughts such as "why won't that mum talk to me" and "I wish I had shoes like hers".

The uneasiness starts the moment we enter the car park in our uncool people carrier. The 'power steering' is almost non existent, so I nearly always have to make some over-complicated and embarrassing manoeuvre just to pull into a car parking space. And all the while I am terrified that I am going to scrape the Range Rover or the brand new BMW either side of me.

I then have to give Dolly - my wayward just-turned-three year old - a pep talk before we get out of the car. I tell her that if she manages not to run away from me at full pelt, leaving me no choice but to launch into an awkward lumber across the playground while yelling at her to stop, I will give her chocolate. Sometimes this works, but often it doesn't.

Once out of the car and heading through the chaotic car park, I cling onto an irate and squirming Dolly and a stroppy Betty, who now finds it embarrassing to hold my hand in public. I am already frazzled and done-in by the time we get to the school gate.

It is at this point I am unsure of drop-off etiquette. When you see the same mums every single day, do you say a cheery hello every time you pass each other, or is it acceptable to just walk on by and pretend you haven't seen them?


I end up saying hello to everyone I pass, even if I don't have a clue who they are, for fear of appearing rude or up myself.


But I swear that some mums are getting sick of my relentless high-pitched hellos. Either that or they are repulsed by my white powdery hair scraped back into a ponytail (dry shampoo that I often forget to brush out).


Also, am I the only one who needs to eat chips and drink wine to get through motherhood? All the other mums look positively skinny and fantastic. If only there was just one other mum like me, rather than having a minor image crisis, I could high-five my fellow fatty each morning.


And not only do I worry about how I look, I worry about how I am presenting my children. Do any of the parents, or indeed children, notice that Betty's bobbly dress is from a supermarket, or that her shoes are rarely polished? Or that her hair is a bit matted sometimes?

So I welcome the fact that in the afternoons, rather than going through this ordeal, all I have to do is walk to the end of our lane and wait for the school minibus to pull in and offload my daughter. Luckily there's only another 13 years of this to go.

Does this sound horribly familiar? Do you rather dread school drop-off and pick-up?

More on Parentdish: Playground politics and bitchy school mums