I admit it. I realised pretty early on that I wasn't like all the other school mums.
In fairness, I'm not entirely sure I gave the whole school mum gig much of a chance. I decided early on from the outer ring of parents that were also hoping to fade into the chalk scrawled walls of the prep class pick up zone that I would keep my distance. There was far too much bitching for my liking and besides, I had better things to do.
It seemed to be the highlight of their day, many arriving 30 minutes before the bell to order to fit in their social life. Not me, if I couldn't wait in the car, I would try as best as possible to blend in, hoping no one would notice. From the wall, I watched with fascination at the food chain of mothers. There were a few I instantly identified as the weakest link as they tried to be noticed. They would get eaten alive.
There was Alison. You could spot her a mile away, dressed in lycra and driving an expensive, black SUV. Her husband had a high paying job that enabled her not to work and besides getting the kids off to school with their perfectly packed bento boxes and wrapped baked goods followed by appointments at the gym, the hair and nail salons and then coffee and a long lunch with other glamourous mums of the same species. Not that I blamed her. I was probably a bit jealous- it all sounded like a great gig to me. Except the gym part. Exercise and I had a rocky friendship.
Then there was Kerry. She had a night shift job and her appearance at the morning drop off was a mystery to me. When I haven't slept, I'm the walking dead. Kerry however looked great and was sharp as a tack. If she fit in 4 hours sleep between drop off and pick up she seemed just fine with that. She had her finger on the pulse of school politics and every detail about the almost brawl that had gone ne in the PTA meeting a few evenings before.
Then there was Michelle. She was the rep for every product under the sun and the only time we spoke was to be invited to a Tupperware/Avon/Educational supplies/Cleaning products/Candles party. To be honest, those things are not really my scene and I was too busy. Although, in fairness, they are really another thing that I haven't given much of a chance. Although, if Michelle started peddling some lingerie or something else a bit more risqué- I may have found my schedule a little more freed up...
Either way, it was easier to avoid the Alison's, Kerry's and Michelle's and keep the drop offs simple by slowing down to ten and allowing the kids to commando roll from the moving vehicle. I just always made sure I was conveniently running late. Worked beautifully, and things stayed that way until this year.
My youngest daughter recently moved schools to join her sister at a private school, my inbox was suddenly flooded with emails about school spirit and parents volunteering. The girls catching the bus meant that I again got to avoid running the social gauntlet and left my superficial, pre existing ideas in tact.
Then, as the school year began, I got a text message from another mother inviting us over for a playdate. My daughter, beaming up at me with her blue eyes expectedly, looked thrilled at the very opportunity. Of course we were going.
So one afternoon, I collected the kids and ventured toward the address she had sent. It seemed like a nice family friendly area. I wondered what she would be like. Somehow, as the school was a religious, private school, I assumed they would be different. Straighter and far more well behaved than I was. That was ok though- I was dressed neatly. Perhaps they would not be able to tell that I didn't fit in and that I was a wine drinking, sometimes swearing mum who took life not-so-seriously enough?
As I knocked at the door, she appeared quickly with a bright smile and introducing herself. She seemed normal.
This is great, She's lovely, great start Mel. I told myself. Keep acting normal.
As we walked to the back of the house, I spotted something unexpected. The walls were adorned with wine memorabilia. Hmmm. "I love your wine decorations" I cheerfully commented, trying to sound casual. 'Shit, so smooth Mel.' I thought,
With a smirk, she responded. 'Yeah, I had about 5 times as many and thought I had better tone them down. Someone might think I'm an alcoholic'.
I couldn't help but laugh. Perfect ice breaker. I already loved this woman.
Instead of offering tea, on the counter she made 4 glasses of sangria, the huge jug still overflowing, The other women took a drink and settled down to chat without hesitation. Gees, this was not what I had pictured at all.
'I love sangria'.. I remarked trying to make conversation.
'Oh yeah, well my sister stayed here and left 6 litres of leftover red wine here. The idea of throwing out wine makes me feel so..... wrong- so- I got onto google to figure out what on earth to do with it all. And now you know...' she finished with a laugh.
And things only got better. Banter continued for an hour on their disinterest in school politics, the antics of their children, their husbands and their own careers- all with some beautifully colourful language littered through out... They were intelligent and there was no bullshit with these women. I instantly wondered where they had been all my life.
Shit, If I had known that there was sangria, and women like this, I would have made more effort.