I’m now fourteen years in to school parent life. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen a lot of change in that time. My three kids have made (and said goodbye to) numerous school friends. We’ve experienced the varying approaches of umpteen teachers. We’ve changed schools. And yes, I’ve met many different types of school parent over the years. Most of us don’t like being stereotyped. And writing something like this is probably similar to producing horoscopes: logically most people will match at least one of the boxes! The fact is though, I have genuinely spotted all these types of school parent at some point or another over the years. I think it’s safe to say most parents do fall into a certain category.
So if you fancy a giggle (or just the chance to match parents you know with some of the following types of school parent) then read on. Maybe you’ll even recognise yourself in this list!
1. The Interrogator
Asks more questions in an hour’s orientation meeting than an entire class of students does in a whole school year. If the Spanish Inquisition were around today, this parent could ‘out question’ them. You can almost hear the teacher’s eyes roll back in their sockets at the continual interruption to be asked about things that have already been fully explained in the 1) meeting 2) notes they’re holding 3) orientation email everyone received. For. Goodness. Sake.
2. The Couple Everyone Loves (and wants to be)
New to the school. Genuinely lovely people (ugh). They both exude warmth and are – somehow – always smiling, even if they’re having a bad day. (Hang on, do these two ever have a bad day?) They also seem to have bags of time on their hands as they are often seen (usually hand in hand), dropping off and picking up their darling cherubs. Every kid wants a playdate with their kid, every teacher instantly adores them …every mum wants a coffee date with the mum, every dad wants to play golf with the dad.
3. The ‘My-Kid My-Kid!’ Parent
“Can you provide more PE lessons for the kids who are better at sports?” “Tommy will need extra homework as he’s more advanced”. “Will the school add even more after-school activities for the more gifted children?” For real?! Let’s be clear: the “my kid my kid!” parent doesn’t ask such questions in order to get actual information. Nope, they just need to show all the other parents that their child is special. Be warned. This school parent tramples over other children without a second thought if it will benefit their own precious offspring. Almost knocking another parent out of the way to get to the front of the queue for after-school activities enrolment? Tick. Quietly grabbing the last slot at that party venue they overheard two other parents discussing at the gates? Tick. Taking the drama teacher aside to explain why their child should get the lead role in the school play? Tick.
4. Ice Queen / King
Looks right past you when you attempt to smile or say hello. They will never know who you are despite both of you having kids in the same class for the last bloody five years. Worse, they haven’t the faintest idea who your kid is either.
5. Too Cool for School
Happy to make an effort chatting to people at the gates, this parent is sociable but has long given up on getting close to anyone after being burned a few times. Feels like it’s all rather hard work mixing with the melé. Some may think them a bit aloof but this parent has simply learned the art of self preservation by avoiding the cliques and making most of their friends outside school.
6. The Old Timer
Typical characteristics are friendly, approachable and helpful for the genuine good of the school and not for any personal agenda. These types of school parent have been around the block a few times with kids of various ages at the school. There is no smug ‘Been There Done That Got the Tshirt’ aura emanating from this one. They are just a genuine good egg.
7. The Calculated Networker
Beware of this charmer. First name: Super. Last name: Popular. An absolute pro at schmoozing their way into mutually beneficial social circles. Knows everyone and has sized up all the other parents in terms of wealth, job and useable connections by the end of day bell. Cleverly ‘recruits’ BFFs for their kids, usually based on who the BFF’s parents are. And wouldn’t you just know it…by the end of the first week, the families are doing Sunday pub lunch, the dads are best buds and the mums are planning a girls’ trip. The calculated networker moves onto the next job posting in a new city or country and deftly does the same all over again at the next school. What. A. Pro.
8. The “Wait…I Have Kids?!” Parent
This lesser spotted species of parent is MIA as they usually send their child on the school bus or with the nanny so you never get a chance to get to know them. They’re never at sports day or concerts. The nanny is though. They don’t help with homework. Another member of staff does that. Playdates? The nanny’s there… And then you find out it’s not because the MIA parent is a busy working mum or dad. Rumour has it they just don’t like the erm parenting part of parenting. Ouch.
9. The Non Participator
Wouldn’t mind offering the odd day here and there for school trip attendance or reading assistance but has enough trouble fitting in mother/household duties never mind fitting in all that malarkey too! This type of school parent is quite frankly relieved when the bell rings for the last time on the last day of the school year. Does any of this sound familiar…?
10. The Frazzled One
Looks permanently stressed, even when not stressed and actually having a good day! Totally struggles Monday to Friday to get anything constructive done beyond grocery shopping and occasionally hoovering the house. This type of school parent genuinely wonders how on earth others manage to help out at school and get stuff done in the the six hours between drop off and pick up.
Not to be confused with:
11. The Frightened Deer
Looks more worried than their own kids the first day (week…month…term) of school. Extremely quiet and hardly anyone knows their name nor they anybody else’s. It’s like they are there but not there. They literally look like an animal caught in headlights, the poor deer, I mean dear.
12. Queen Bee
Ah…there is nothing, N-O-T-H-I-N-G let me tell you that this woman (yep it’s usually a female) is not involved in. Every school event, reading day, library help, school trip, concert, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g…they are right there at the forefront. Unlike the Seasoned Old Timer (who has no ego-driven reasons for helping out and simply wants to do their bit for the betterment of their child’s school) Queen Bee sees herself as crucial to the smooth running of the entire establishment. Don’t you know the entire school would fall apart without her?! Woe betide anyone who tries to ‘steal the show’…you know, by just trying to do their bit too.
13. The Not-My-Kid Not-My-Kid Parent
Extremely competitive, this parent will not even entertain the thought that their precious little cherub could possibly bully and intimidate their way throughout the day or entire school life. Ironic considering this school parent’s very mission is to raise masters of the universe and heaven help anyone who gets in their way. It doesn’t matter how many times this parent is contacted by the school regarding their child’s behaviour which violates the school’s code of conduct. It is always the other child’s fault. Funnily enough, this parent will not hesitate to wave the same code of conduct in the Head’s face when it suits them.
14. The Go With The Flow One
And finally, the one I’d love to be. They are neither the tiger parent you wish really became extinct like the animal that gave its name nor the frazzled one; they’re just über calm and laid back. They are neither popular nor unpopular; they are just happy with their circle. They’re neither over-involved nor totally detached; they just do enough. Zen. All the way. And just look at those happy kids.
On a serious note, different types of school parent as we all are, there is one thing that unites us. That is our love for our kids…yep, even those Queen Bees without whom the whole operation probably wouldn’t run as smoothly!