Parents of the incoming pre-school or kindergarten class of 2015, congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve made it past those grueling infant and toddler years with your wits and child presumably intact, and the big milestone of starting school next fall is looming.
The final weeks before September will be filled with the purchase of supplies, pre-school play-dates, and remedial potty training (to avoid that telltale inch of pink or blue pull-up above the belt line that just screams lazy parenting.) But you yourself may need slightly longer to prepare for your introduction to a new social hierarchy that will envelope you for at least the next 13 years. I’m talking about us, your fellow school parents. While we are all reasonably unique individuals, you will soon begin to notice some definite archetypes emerge as clearly as they did back in your own High School days. However, in place of the jocks, brains and burnouts, some updated prototypes/food groups have evolved.
To help you prepare for, identify, and manage your interactions with these icons of the schoolyard, you may want to familiarize yourself with this brief field guide:
Maybe the most immediately visible of all parent types, you can spot Cool Dad from across the parking lot: The Porkpie Hat; the full tattoo sleeve; the Daft Punk 2002 Tour T-shirt … Cool Dad wants you to know, before even getting within 12 feet of him, that just because he’s had a couple of kids, it doesn’t mean he’s lost his Street Cred (even if it does mean taking seven hours to install a safety seat into his vintage Chevelle.) Often accessorizing Cool Dad will be Cool Kid — a nice, normal tot who has no idea who Radiohead are, or why they are on his faux vintage T-shirt. Other signals that you’re in the presence of Cool Dad include the faint moans unique to a 45-year-old still torturing his feet in Converse Chuck Taylors.
The Whole Foods Fan
Always a hit at the Back to School picnic, The Whole Foods Fan is a veritable Farmers Market meets holistic nutrition guru. While your squirt is half-heartedly plodding through a lunch of mac & cheese and a fruit roll-up, their macrobiotic mini-me is inhaling a Kale Salad, with just a splash of Quinoa. At first you may admire The Whole Food Fan’s passion for feeding their spawn only locally grown organic fare, and grains you’ve only heard about on NPR. But that admiration will quickly fade in the face of a few clucking “you let him eat that? Really??” comments. Also likely to have you re-thinking becoming BFFs with The Whole Food Fan: her passion for breast-feeding. Her 6-year-old. In the parking lot. You’ll soon learn to park at least four car lengths away from her Volvo wagon each morning, to avoid glimpsing “The Top-Off Before Drop-Off.” If that doesn’t seal the deal, her un-vaccinated 3rd grader introducing the entire school to Whooping Cough just before Christmas break probably will.
Old School, Inc.
A fading but venerable staple in the parent pool is Old School, Inc. Most often found among the older dads, especially those wheezing through a second family, Old School has had more than enough of this modern parenting sh*t. His mom smoked a pack of Camels a day while he was in the womb and it didn’t hurt him a bit, and the best part of going to school was flying across the back-deck of the wagon when his dad cornered hard. In spite of the gruff exterior, Old School is a good acquaintance to make, not the least for his grim assessment of which of the other dads could’ve hacked it in Nam. The fact that Old School is often re-married to a 28-year-old Pilates instructor who gave birth in a pool with piped in whale songs only adds to the simmering indignation at what his golden years are shaping up to be.
The Big Planner
The brisk stride, the ever-present clipboard, and the evangelical glint in her eye are the ready tells of the Big Planner. No school can function without at least a handful Big Planners, but that doesn’t always translate into the appreciation they deserve. Caller ID and Gmail filters are no match for their tenacity. The reality that any chance encounter will likely result in your assignment to a minimum of three committees leads to an instinctive fight-or-flight response to the sight of The Big Planner. The veteran slacker parent won’t even enter a school building without having scoped out three rapid B-P escape routes.
Mr & Mrs. Bling
That blinding glare on horizon each morning is a sure sign that Mr. or Mrs. Bling are en route to deliver their stylish spawn to school. From the faux Mediterranean mansion to the Porsche SUV, everything about this family screams apex consumer and a craving for status. Making matters worse, that 9-year-old with the highlights, and a Prada Trapper Keeper inside her Marc Jacobs backpack probably has a higher credit score than you. But alienate them at your peril: one Super Bowl party spent in front of a 160″ flat screen and there’s no going back.
Also hard to miss is Fiesta Mom. F-M is often a former social butterfly and alpha dater, who settled down to what she assumed would be an idyllic life as a SAHM. Six months into that, nearly sociopathic from isolation and repeated routine, she found salvation in the cocktail play date trend and has been the life of the party ever since. Even if the “party” is actually a midday volunteer meeting for the Fall fundraiser, and not one of the agenda items is, “Any one want to pop some pinot after pick-up?”
Whether emerging mysteriously from the playground shrubs at recess to re-apply SPF or “accidentally” dropping that old baby monitor into their first graders supply cubby, the Bodyguard is a round the clock presence in the school yard. Also commonly known as a Helicopter Parent, telltale traits of The Bodyguard include co-dependency, debilitating anxiety, and far too much free time. Witness Protection and Semester at Sea are common destinations for the children of The Bodyguard.
Recently Divorced Dad
He smells faintly of spray tan and Binaca, thinks his 8-year-old son is the ultimate icebreaker, and he’s coming this way. Enough Said.
It used to be that there was only so much damage you could do by exhibiting bad behavior at your kids’ school. Even if the implied penalty of “Telling tales out of School” was always a little murky, what was the worst that could happen? A little gossip around the PTA and at cocktail parties max. Then came the Internet, and your dysfunctional drop-off style was suddenly be fodder for analysis, mocking, and snarky reader comments coast to coast. Damn Bloggers ruin everything.
Guest written by Jon Taylor
Want more from Stefanie on Babble? Try Stay Off Google if you Have a Baby , 9 Things to Remember When Your Toddler is Driving You Insane or Why the Grayson Bruce Bullying Story Should Make You Furious
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