It's a jungle out there: Survival at the school gate

Kinderling News & Features

Author Jaq Muller describes the morning drop off routine, and her status as a mum on the edges.

The iron gates loom high before us, our hands are clasped together and I grip on to spongey fingers, fearing the time they are no longer there.

I desperately want to dislodge the wedgie that has crept up my bum cheeks, but that will have to wait until I make a safe return to my black SUV, one of four hundred currently circling local streets for strong coffee.

She jettisons from my side, and I am left on my own to watch her rocket off toward her classroom with a mere smile and wave for moral support.

I am now left in the school yard. On. My. Own!

I survey the landscape with the temperament of a lone wildebeest on the Serengeti. Here the predators are just as cunning and quick, their stealth aided by this year’s collection of 2XU performance skins and Lorna Jane hoodies.

School mums hunt in packs which make them even more dangerous. Where a Tanzanian cheetah will silently strategise alone in thickened scrub, a pride of mothers gain strength in numbers then discuss how to take down their prey in a cacophony of assumption, judgement and innuendo.

Heads pop up like meerkats from closed conversation to take in the latest arrivals to this suburban killing field. The hushed tones signal the demise of another poor soul whose self-esteem is already quivering on the edge.

The weak are quickly assessed and assigned into their castes where they are sentenced to stay for the term of prep to grade six, with parole only possible through an overseas posting, a beach house at Flinders, or membership to the Melbourne Racing Club. The uninitiated have no control where they find themselves, in fact Huxley’s World State could probably learn a thing or two from the efficiency with which school yard mothers dispense humans into social blocks. For those spared the indignity of what I am talking about, the caste system is structured something like this (in descending order).

Listen to Kinderling Conversation:

The G&Ts (lushious-snob-a-saurus): the self-appointed privy council

Membership to the top tier of the school totem pole usually comes via sponsorship from a relative or close neighbour. It has been known for families to buy property in certain streets, just to increase their chances of membership.

The G&Ts can usually be found propping up the bar at Auskick footy practice on a Friday night. Ensuring the theme for the annual school social is either financially or fashionably limiting to 50 per cent of the school’s parent population, is a priority. ‘What do you mean that $150 a head for an Armed in Armani night is too elitist?

The Gym-A-Rexias (gristle-ass-a-saurus)

Next down the rung and closely aligned to the G&Ts. Super health conscious and sewn in to their lycra, this fat free, gluten free, carb free crack unit can out run a Pottery Barn delivery truck, fit into a pair of Witchery kids leopard skin jeggings and beat the pants off anyone stupid enough to enter the mum’s race at the sports carnival.

You will barely get a hello from beneath the Nike sun visor, and if you turn up to the mums’ drinks with a plate of food not from the paleo-approved list, you are screwed!

The Over Achievers (I-am-the busiest-mother-everaptor)

Due to their access to resources they can be found socialising with the G&Ts and the Gym-A-Rexias, but not for too long because they are just soooooooo busy. Pleasantly distant, they often nod smiles as they get the latest updates to a PowerPoint presentation on their iPhone.

They wear their full-time employment like a warning. They are not interested in the complexities of anyone else’s schedule because no one on the planet could be busier than them.

So to anyone with more than a couple of kids, nursing sick or elderly relatives, working part-time, running their own business or coaching the netball team, sorry that just doesn’t cut the mustard.

The Hipsters (Fitzroy-evictee-a-tops)

The most contented of all the tribes – as they keep reminding everyone! You can stick your artificial hair colour up your Prada because inner peace can only be embraced once you realise the evils of chemicals and a watered lawn. The tofu stand at the school fete may be empty, but they don’t care because the ‘midtowners’ will eventually work out that tofu is ‘fin’.

The Phantom Zoners (Dark-roots-a-saurus)

The spare parts that no one wants to take responsibility for can be found in the Phantom Zone. A place that neither rains nor shines, and where their offerings don’t fit within the accepted range of worthy individuals. Their time and money is accepted willingly and taken advantage of, but the bribe is never enough to get them out. They care more about their kids’ education rather than full participation in the school drink-a-thon or how they look. It’s anticipated that this group will eventually stage a coup and de-throne the G&Ts to restore peace and harmony to the 12 Districts… I mean school council.

And then there is me

After four years I am like the homeless. Living in the shadows but not far from any major incident, because let’s face it, this fodder has to come from somewhere. I am distanced enough not to have to give evidence about who threw up at the school social, or identify the two mothers seen slapping each other to the ground over the grade three artwork in the silent auction. I like being of no fixed address and you will often find me straying from group to group. I come and go, which causes great frustration to the G&Ts. I am an annoying mozzie flying about your head at 3am because I just won’t settle in one place. Apparently wearing heels and dresses one day and then ripped jeans and runners the next, is a north facing middle finger to stereotype.

I have only six months left of my sentence. I am just a few cupcake batches away from freedom. My steely resolve to not let them break me is all I have left to navigate the upcoming year level drinks, mother’s annual lunch, Mother’s Day morning breakfast, mother’s afternoon tea, mother’s late morning chicken and champagne soiree, and this year’s Fair, all proudly sponsored by Drinkwise Australia.

Republished with permission from jaqmuller.com.