School pick up and the “walk of shame”

I dislike the school playground.

I find it a lonely place, where I just don’t quite fit in. My children go to a village school. Due to new houses being built the school has grown rapidly over the last decade and there is now a greater social mix of “village = posher people” and ” new estate = less-posh people.” The village people have all known each other since childhood and the new estate people see each other more, as they live close together and might share lifts and child care.

We don’t fit, we live in the village but we are “in-comers.” Someone once told me that it takes 25 years to be accepted in a village. And right now that feels true….

When Hannah started school, I remember praying that she would be okay, that she would actually speak in class and that she would make some “nice” friends. I remember us singing the song “Jesus is my best friend”before her first day. I am so thankful she believes this, because since Star joined our family not one of the “nice” children has invited her over to play.

I vividly remember one pick up when the angry looking reception teacher asked me to stay behind to speak to her.

I looked at Hannah, wondering what had gone on and walked shamed -faced to the side of the playground thinking “is she the victim or the perpetrator?” It felt like the eyes of the entire playground were on me and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.

“Victim or perpetrator?”

In most classes children quickly work out who “naughty” children are..

Hannah and Ben would come home with stories of Alfie did this or Tyler did that. When their parents are called to stay behind everyone knows which one their child is…


In Hannah’s year there are some very troubled boys, including Tyler. His behaviour is disruptive and violent and has led to multiple exclusions.

Tyler’s mum also clearly does not enjoy the school playground. She is a heavily tattooed single Mum with a Mohecin hair cut and dark eye makeup. The Mohecin changes colours at least once a week- often illuminous pink or blue.

Village people tut as she walks by, I have heard them sarcastically whisper “oh, we are pink today are we.” She had a row with another Mum at the school gate, which turned into a fight and the police were called. This sort of stuff does not happen in the village. It was much talked of.

In the weeks that followed the row, Tyler’s Mum – I do not know her name – made less and less eye contact.

Staff at the school became very concerned about her and one asked me (professionally) for contacts to help her.

Underneath her thick eye shadow, her leather jacket, her changing hair colour and her tough persona was a broken woman.

Eddie and I were becoming concerned about the disruption in the class room and one evening Hannah prayed for Tyler, that he might learn to behave in class, that he might be able to stay in school.

I was humbled by the compassion of our daughter.

A few days later I was walking home from drop off when Tyler and his Mum were trudging through the crowd towards school. She had to look up so she did not walk into anyone and I managed to catch her eye and say.

“Tyler did really well at football on Saturday, my husband thinks he is really talented.”

Tyler’s Mum smiled.

Tyler smiled.

She said “thank you love” in a high pitched voice which did not fit at all with her tough exterior.

Now every time I see her she smiles and says “alright love.”

Two years later, she and Tyler have clearly put some of their troubles behind them ….

……. and Star has started school.

Now I am the parent called behind to stay everyday.

Star’s communication book lists all the things she has done wrong.

As I stand waiting to be spoken to, all the parents know Star is bound to be the perpetrator.

There is probably one of me in every playground in the country.

The mother of the perpetrator.

The mother who frequents the after- school “walk of shame.”

I may not have dark eye makeup, and an ever changing hair colour to signal distress, but if you see me, I would really appreciate it if you could meet my eye, smile and notice that my daughter did something good today.


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