It wasn’t always safe to stand on duty at the front of the school before the day started. In six years, I saw a range of incidents. From minor car accidents through to two women getting in a fist fight over a man they were both seeing. To be fair, one of them was married to him.
There was another woman though who was next level unsafe.
Her car would roar into the area where parents could drop their children off, one hand on the wheel, the other hand thrust against the windshield with her middle finger very prominent.
Not exactly reflecting the title ‘Kiss and Drop’ that the other parents gave the area.
What do you do in a situation like this?
With no guidebook, I employed a range of strategies to respond to her displeasure:
Giving a gentle smile and royal hand wave I gave to most of the school community
Hands in my pockets looking at the sky, ignoring
Looking into the car, left eyebrow raised
Turning my back and looking back down at the school (pretending that I wasn’t worried that she might mount the curb and run me over)
Whichever of these strategies I used, the ‘mother’ in question was always super consistent. Middle finger raised and obscenities at the ready.
Once the car came to a complete stop, her son John* would open the car door, step out of one world, and enter another as his school day started.
‘Morning Mr. H.’
‘Have a good day mate.’
The last bit often drowned out by the screeching of the car pulling out on to the main road.
This parent was volatile at the best of times. John was the youngest of four kids and they had all gone through the school. This mum had left some experienced and battle-hardened teachers in tears. Her reputation definitely preceded her.
John was in grade 1 when I started at the school and for the first few years I enjoyed a stable relationship with the family. The fact that I genuinely liked Johnny clearly worked in my favour.
John was a likeable kid, but his behaviour at times wasn’t what you would hope. He could be a bit rough out in the yard, and at times was a bit too honest. John could always be relied upon to tell the truth, including if he didn’t like a particular teacher. Demonstrating that a strength overplayed can become a weakness.
I rang home to discuss the latest incident, and his mum literally went off. She was also capable of maintaining the rage for a decent amount of time.
It reached the point in the phone call where I said if you keep yelling and swearing at me, I’m going to hang up and you will need to call through the office to make an appointment to see me.
No surprises, but yep, I hung up.
Unfortunately, not long after this phone call John’s behaviour had escalated and required another call home. I remember walking around thinking who could make the call, knowing full well how my voice would be received.
After much deliberation I recognised it needed to be me.
At the sound of my voice came a barrage from the other end of the phone, “Call my secretary and make a fucking appointment!” “CLUNK.”
A saving grace was that this escalation was late in Johnny’s grade 6 year. We managed to limp to the end of the year without any further blow ups, and graduation went off without a hitch.
It’s inspiring how some young people despite their traumatic, or dysfunctional upbringings overcome this to break the cycle in a way that you can’t help but admire. Lessons for all of us, regardless of the hand we are dealt in life.
I saw Johnny at the local football a few years after he had graduated.
Warming up before his footy match he made a beeline for me. Muscles glistening, mullet flowing and a huge grin.
“G’day Mr. H.”
Aren’t kids amazing?!
* John isn’t his real name