Along with a new wave of children beginning their journey into the UK education system, comes a new wave of parents typecasting mums at the school gate. Each year I see a scramble of parenting bloggers getting out their posts about these figures at the school gate. Most are lighthearted and good humour about ‘sporty mums’, ‘fashionista mums’, ‘organised mums’ and so on, but then a few years ago I came across a blogger crowdsourcing that was actively looking for contributions to a post that was a bit more sinister in nature. It is something that has always stuck with me and now I have a child at school, I feel compelled to write about it.
This person had noted a mum shouting at her child while on the school run and on her return home, had set about gathering contributions from fellow bloggers listing all the negative things they had seen at the school gate. There were the usual things one might expect, like cliques of parents openly judging other people, but there were also comments about a child who arrived to school every day in a dirty jumper and a mum who hurried her child through the school gates every morning, just as the bell rang.
The reason I have been so compelled to write about this as a topic, is to challenge the mindset people may have while at the school gate and to encourage people to see outside of the sphere of their reality.
There were times I walked to school (late) in the wrong uniform or in wet uniform. I usually lacked a coat and more often than not my hair was unbrushed. I guess there would have been people at the school gate judging me, but behind that small child wandering along the road looking somewhat dirty and disheveled, was a difficult home life. A violent step-father, a struggling mother and a child who before the age of 12 had already witnessed more pain and upset than most people see in a lifetime.
I think back to friend of mine, whose mother on one occasion had shouted at him at the school gate because he had ripped his trousers on the climbing frames. An easy thing to judge a parent for. But behind the raised voice of a mother and the scuffling feet of a child being yelled at, was a family who was financially struggling, spearheaded by a mother who had counted out coppers from a tin the night before to buy bread and certainly had no money spare for a new pair of trousers.
I cast my mind back to a time I watched my friend racing against the clock to get her children to school on time. Returning home from a night shift and then rushing to get two children fed, dressed and out of the door and through the school gates before the bell rang.
I look around the playground at drop off and pick up now and notice the mother shuffling on the spot, looking around anxiously. I notice her and I salute her, because despite crippling fear of judgement she arrives early to pick up each and every day and greets her child with a smile.
It is all too easy to cast judgement on others around us when we have the privilege of not knowing their struggles. When there is no qualm over money for a new school uniform or food on the table. It is all too easy to tut at the parent who is always late and hurries their child through the gates, when you do not see the struggle it took to get there at all. It is all too easy to cast judgement when we have not seen the hardships other people face. It is all too easy to type our views out in little boxes on the internet, instead of offering a helping hand. But it is key to remember, we should not throw stones, because situations can change and those that cast stones, may well find themselves in glass houses.