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Dropping the F bomb

Never mind swearing – Liz Dashwood fell foul of the other mums when she made a joke about favourites

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I’ve blotted my copybook with one of the mothers. Possibly several. We were at the term’s first PTA coffee morning. Non-attendance, even – nay, especially – by those of us who had managed for the past few weeks to keep things on a nod-and-wordless-smile basis, while scurrying in and out for drop-offs and pick-ups, was not an option. All Reception-class parents were extremely firmly invited to what turned out to be essentially a recruiting session carried out with marginally less subtlety than Scientologists at a Cruise family barbecue. The committee members fanned out around the room and sniffed at us like police dogs picking up new trails. Does this one smell of money or free time? Hmm… A top-note of neediness – could be useful. A definite wave of hostility coming off that one – best left ’til the Christmas fete round. I don’t know what they got from my corner – nothing pleasant, I’m sure, given that I hadn’t actually managed to have a shower before I left, despite the very best intentions. Bewilderment and BO, that’s me.

Anyway, we were all sitting at long tables in the school dinner hall and opposite me was the mother of the school triplets – three little dark-haired boys who are so completely alike it makes your eyes go funny as they trot past. She’d showered, I was interested to note. And dressed and put on make-up. It was like looking at a different order of being. If anyone had ever taken three babies out of me at once, I would still be curled up in a bed somewhere, very much considering my work done.

We were filling in forms with our contact details and so on, so that somebody with an administrative capability and work ethic stronger than my own could compile a list of them all and circulate it round the entire class, to facilitate the making of playdates amongst offspring and, unless we are all very careful, nights out amongst parents. There was a box to tick if you were willing to volunteer as class rep. The mother of triplets, whose kids are split across the two reception groups, wondered aloud which one she should rep for. “Oh,” I said. “Just pick your favourite. Do his.”

Now LOOK. I am NOT a mother of triplets. I would be in an ASYLUM somewhere if I were. BUT. I do still know that they don’t have favourites. I mean, you might slightly prefer the quieter one, or the one that sleeps through the night most often, or the one that first learns to make a gin and tonic, sure, but no more than that. It was, in short, a joke. Clearly.

Or so I thought. But she totally froze, fixed me with a stare that went some way beyond hate, and replied icily – “I don’t HAVE a FAVOURITE.” And, like lightning, the expressions on the faces of the other mothers down the length of the rest of the table – who had been preparing to smile, at least as much as my small piece of nonsense was worth – followed suit and turned to stone.

This is the problem with motherhood. You think you’re in a gang, so you relax too much and then, too late, you realise that you’re not. The early days, when you could bond over broken nights and even more broken vaginas, are gone. You’re in a loose coalition of powers, at best, most of whom are constantly seeking a competitive advantage.

She, of course, has been made my class rep. I see very few playdates in my son’s future. I’m not her favourite. Sorry, kid.


Despatches From The School Gate will be back in a fortnight. 
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