**This is a chapter from series of running chapters of how newly arrived mum Megan tries to survive the most dangerous place of earth – the school playground ** Well, she ‘tries’, with her Overactive imaginative style!
The morning was dark, cold and wet and I still managed to parallel park perfectly. The whistling of the wind would normally be an eerie accompaniment to my cacophony of morning chaos but there was no chaos this morning. I had purposely left the house before any of my children awoke. I must not dally, and I must not get distracted. I must be on my way, and stay singularly focused on my mission to be a Good Mother to my children.
Tabitha and the Mean Judgy Mums Club were going down. Tabitha was not getting away with the Birthday Party Invite Hit! This was the last time they made another mum cry with their mean sarcastic comments of “Oh no, that’s NOT how it’s done”; or “Are you pregnant AGAIN?”; “What? Your Johnnie can’t READ yet?”; or making other children cry as their children tell ours, “My mommy said I can’t play with you because she thinks your mommy is weird, has a weird smell or has weird clothes or shoes…or generally has a weird name and all things weird.” with “weird” being a code word for not perfect, losing your crap or just being humanly imperfect you; of “blanking” you as if you and your offsprings were nothing, way beneath their Ugg boots.
I don’t want to be best friends, Mean Mums, I don’t want you to like me, I don’t want to go for Morning Coffee with you, I don’t want to be invited to your homes, heck, I don’t even want to be your acquaintance, I just want my child to feel safe and happy in his school environment. I just us to be civil so that our children can be who they want to be, safe from judgement.
I was determined to end the Party Invites War but would I be brave enough? Would I have enough in me to see it through? How was I going to survive organising the School Fete if Tabitha was President? There was the first meeting next week…Or would it be MY last?
I wanted to be a Good Mother, but at what cost?
The cost which probably included this morning’s event, I sighed.
The rules for this morning were clear as a child’s pee :
I could not be late.
I could not wear purple or pink.
I had to bring a Cake.
I quickly scrambled out of my car as gracefully as an elephant doing a pole dance. I tried to zip up my raincoat around my package to protect it from the rain, but my raincoat was not large enough. So I wrapped my raincoat as close to me as possible to cover the bulge in front. I then sloshed in my gumboots as if I was a drunken person trying to walk away from the bar, balancing my twelfth and thirteenth mugs of beer without slipping.
There was no one in sight. There was a soft glow from the dark single storey building as I hurried towards it. It was so nondescript that in the warmth glow of the day, I would have hurried by the building without a second thought.
I looked at the single gated door, and noticed that there was no number or welcome mat. My heart was thumping as I stood in front, the rain still relentless and my hand shook, but not from the cold, while the other hand cradled the precious package so carefully.
I raised my right fist and I hesitated. Was this really what I wanted to do? I quickly looked to my left and right and I took a deep breath and knocked.
The door opened just a crack and a set of piercing cool blue eyes looked at me. An eyebrow was raised, in anticipation.
“Chocolate Cakes are for wimpy mums!” I hissed the password-phrase.
The face did not break into a smile or laugh. It simply disappeared behind the door as it opened.
A flood of light hit me and the hall was beautifully decorated with balloons, streams and decorations. There was already a line of people, all bearing gifts for the Cake/Treats Stall. Some were laughing and talking, fixing more decorations and setting up tables and chairs. It was an electric atmosphere, like the slow beginning of alcohol warming up your brain but there were a few, like me, who had to stay sober and who were hugging their packages tightly.
We were here for a different reason.
The line moved inch by inch. There was a tightness in my chest as I struggled to rehearse in my mind what I was going to say or do.
“Hello, I have heard so many great things about you…My name is Megan and you probably don’t know me but…”
Suddenly, there was a loud sob and a loud bang of the door. I looked up from the floor and saw a well heeled Professional Mother in a tailored business suit, scampering out of the kitchen in only one of her Loubotin high heels and missing the other. She looked like she ran MNC board meetings and made grown men cry but here she was, running, not caring about her missing Loubotin, just running from HER. The other Loubotin pair was fiercely thrown over her head and a yell from the surly lady at the counter, “We don’t take Hazelnut Cakes even if it is from 5 star Michelin Alexandrio’s Patisserie!” With that, all that was left of the beautifully groomed lady was the sad Loubotin shoe sitting by itself and the sound of a $120 Gourmet Cake being savagely and unceremoniously dumped into the dustbin.
I was beginning to shake now- even the price of Cake did not matter. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all.
“YOU!” that person behind the counter barked sharply. She was a surly older lady in an apron who looked like she could make a grown man eat broccoli simply by just twitching her left eye, but who was now looking at me with her good right eye.
She was The Assistant…to be said in the same reverent tone as “The Vice President”, she was called. Nobody got past her wide hips or her tray of Cannelloni and nobody ever knew her real name.
She looked as tough as nails, and with broad hands that could open tough bottle lids from hell with a single twist and hands that have pounded out more lies from children and parents than bread. I knew that she was HER right hand woman.
I nervously put my Cake on the table. There was a whole array of cakes, cookies, muffins, slices, and biscuits, all labeled and stacked nicely for the sale.
“Fresh cream?” she barked.
“No,” I answered.
“Unauthorised Food colouring?”
“Aldi, Coles, Woolworths, local bakery or gourmet bakery?”
Another trick question?? Dear Wine Goddess, help me now.
“Did you BUY it?” She asked impatiently.
“Oh no, didn’t buy it. Home-made!” I said.
“NNNNNuuuuutttttssss?” she growled.
She then gave a slight smile and a grumpy “Hmmmppphhh”.
Phew…safe! And now I had to give the secret passcode-phrase to go into the inner sanctum.
“Red wine is for cooking, not for whinging mums!” I said in a small whisper.
Then the door to the inner kitchen magically opened and there SHE stood in front of a whole bowl of cut fruit, wielding a large knife as she hacked delicately and tenderly a whole watermelon. She was holding it as if it was as light as an apple.
She was large and stout, looking very much a much loved Nan in her flowery pink and purple blouse, wide brown skirt, her lightly made up face with a string of pearls. She was even shorter than me but her presence filled the room.
“Waterm’lon is a dish that is best COLD, ‘ove!” she laughed in a loud manner as she beckoned me in. She sliced the watermelon so meticulously, each slice was of the same width and length as she placed it expertly in the fruit bowls laid out for morning tea. Each fruit bowl was a work of origami art.
SHE received everyone – rich and poor, powerful and humble – with an equal show of love. She slighted no one. That was her character. And the people proclaimed how well she looked in her hair net, starched apron and flat shoes that the inexperienced observer might have easily have thought that she was the luckiest woman in the world.
Her methods were legendary. Mums have been missing fingers or hair after daring to cut crusts off sandwiches when helping to prepare the lunch orders OR just gone missing after telling her how to make sandwiches. Mums have moved schools after daring to buy the same products from Aldi which the Canteen sold, daring to cut into her turf. Mums have cried bitter tears after bringing the wrong change. Mums have begged for forgiveness after writing up the wrong lunch orders. Teachers nodded in deference to her as they waited for her “Special Orders”, only on a Tuesday, never a Wednesday, or a Thursday, maybe on a Monday but only on a tuesday.
She was Dawn Carlison, The Canteen Lady, the Controller of Morning Tea snacks, ice creams, lollies, lunch items and all things Amber. She was the Cake GodMother, the Godmother for Mothers in Primary School. She was most POWERFUL LADY in the school.
“I know who y’are, love…Aye, ‘Ave known you, Megaaaan since you ‘ropped off the rego papers but not once ‘ave you come to introduce ‘ourself to me or put ‘our name ‘own on the ‘roster?
“And today, the day of ce’bration, of the school’s picnic fundraiser, y’ave come to me and need ma’help, ‘ove?” she said.
“Yes….I’ve donated a cake…”
“Cake?” she laughed loudly, “We don’t talk of such things here. Aye, I’ave ‘eard of the troubles abrewing..”
“How? I haven’t whispered to a soul..”
“When ou’re been ’round as long as me, ‘ove…y’ll ‘now….And besides…” she starts laughing, ” Women always talk when slicing ‘read, dinchya know? Give them a loaf and they start atalking and spilling their guts or someone’s guts. Nothing like ‘hite ‘read to make women talk.”
“Aye, aye, I can ‘elp ‘ou… but I may one day call on ‘ou to return the favour… will ‘ou be able to?” she asked calmly as she started slicing apples. It was as if she was asking me to go to the shops to buy a pint of milk and a loaf of bread.
Only I knew in Dawn’s world, it would not be any ordinary bread I would be picking up. I looked at her and knew that the answer she wanted wouldn’t be on any parenting book or website.
Is this the price of a Good Mother or a Parent?
Good parenting is not about sleeping through the night, weaning, toilet training, finger food or allergies. It’s not about buying the right food or junk food, watching or not watching Television, about iPad, computers, it’s not even about disposable or cloth diapers. The early years are no doubt so very hard but it is still within your control. But come the school years and the children are now older, it is about making hard decisions when faced with impossibly hard situations with devastatingly emotive consequences.
Situations of lost friendship, of failing at school, sports, of changing relationships, of rejection, of non acceptance, of being the target of bullying, of which we as Mothers have no control over anymore. It is about being able to make judgement calls about the grey. It is about not being able to “kiss” the boo-boos away and the Monsters which once lurked under the bed or in the closet, have come out to play and your Monster Spray is way past its expiry date.
It is of making impossibly hard decisions because there are no clear cut right or wrong, no growth chart, no developmental milestone, and no black and white.
The price of Cake, wine and all other stuff to get through these tiring and awful parenting moments is dirt cheap but what of the price of a Good Mother?
My eyes narrowed and a steely determination arose as I did the Mummy Math and I knew what I had to say, “These Perfect Judgy Moms have to be stopped, Dawn. They have gone too far and this time, they have picked the Wrong Mother!”
“Aye, aye!” Dawn started laughing, “We’ll make an offer ‘ey can’t refuse, aye?”
“Yes, Dawn,” I smiled a most evil smile for the first time that morning .
Sometimes to be a Good Mother, I realised, the true cost of being a Good Mother, is to be a little evil.
And when the Mummy Bitch makes her debut, there will be hell to pay.
When The Mulk tries to be funny, I become Agent Spitback writing life nonsense for my Secret Diary.
Follow me on Silly Brick Road
Tweet me nonsense at @AgentSpitback
© ELT 2016. All rights reserved