Mothers & Sons

A tweeted reply to someone’s bad day, where I shared a story from my past experience, got quite a sympathetic response, so I thought I’d share the full story.

Let’s start with some context. I was in my early thirties, and had only just started as a new Head of Geography at a new school. It was my first middle leadership job, and early in the term – perhaps the third weekend in September? – the Open Morning season began. Like a number of schools in the area, we held ours on a Saturday morning, and I was going in with the aim of being impressive. Obviously.

My parents were visiting London that weekend, too. And, over dinner on Friday night, my Mum raised the idea of whether they could come in too. It’d be nice if she could see the school, she said, because then she’d have a good idea of what I was talking about when we spoke on the phone.

Mums, as we know, never want to stop looking after their little babies.  

However, I knew that I’d be working a lot. The Open Morning was advertised from 9-12, but realistically we’d need to be in classrooms from about 8.45, so that we were ready.

We made a plan. I’d go in *very* early – which is what I was going to do anyway, for set up – and Mum & Dad could come with me. I’d show them round, while no-one was in, and then they would head off to the nearby Horniman Museum, where there was a world-famous walrus, and a café, and all would be well. They should come back by about 12.30, when we’d be all packing up, and we could come home together.

So it went. I showed them the Department, the classrooms, talked about what we were doing, we looked at Open Day resources. They saw the shared office, met some of the early bird team mates, and we were on our way out towards the main exit, when we saw the Head coming down the corridor. Also fairly new in post, he was checking that all was as it should be.

Not wanting to appear rude, I introduced my parents to him “up in London for the weekend, thought they’d like to see” etc.

“Hello”, said my Mum. “I’m David’s Mum. How’s he settling in? Has he made friends, and done well?”

Mums, as we know, never want to stop looking after their little babies.  

The Head was amused and wonderfully kind. I was mentally drafting a resignation. Mortified, we moved away, and I gently escorted them out to start their plans.

Were it to end there, my day would have been a fairly strange tale. Reader, it does not.

My parents are, it seems, incapable of a number of things, but prime amongst them is rudeness. That also, naturally, includes being late for anything. Ever.

The school was running a system on Open Days where visiting parents, children (and often, extended family, who’d turned it in to an outing) were paired with a Sixth Form student and a Year 7 student, who’d give them a tour of the school. If you went anticlockwise, you’d start in the Geography Department, before going to the hall. If you went clockwise, that’s where you’d finish. When someone walked through the door, they were paired up and the tour began fairly quickly – a pretty slick system was in place, particularly by about 11.15 when we were in full flow.

Ah yes. Noticed the time, did you?

We’d agreed a return of about 12.30 pm, so that my parents could miss the rush of incoming guests.

My parents didn’t get that memo. They arrived at about 11.15, walked through the front door – as you do – and were immediately swept up in the machine. They were allocated to a tour with a Sixth Former that I taught, and a Year 7 that I taught, and a random family with a child. I’m assuming that they thought my parents were the grandparents, and I’m guessing that everyone was being terribly polite and not saying “so, who are you?” and so on.

And, like I said. Incapable of being rude. So my Mum will have gone along with it, brightly and cheerfully, and no doubt nudged my Dad to keep quiet as the tour progressed in a clockwise direction.

But, by about the three-quarters point of the tour, the penny’s starting to drop for the guides. The child isn’t talking to the grandparents? The parents aren’t talking to the grandparents? Do these guys even know each other?

And so it turns out that, as they were walking from History towards Geography, the Sixth Former in charge of the tour plucks up the courage to start asking a little bit more about these random people in their 60s.

“So, you guys are not a family?”

No, they agreed. They were not.

“Do you have a child who’s interested in coming to the school?”

No, they said. They did not. They did, however, have a child already at the school.

Now, my Department is fairly popular at the best of times, and we’d got some interactive games going on, and it was a busy room and place. In addition, a bunch of my Sixth Form tutor group – many prefects, or involved in running things, had decided to come and congregate in the rooms as the morning was coming to a close.

The tour group arrive into this Department scene, right at the denouement of a quite frankly Sorkin-esque walk and talk.

“Oh, you have a child at the school already? What year are they in?”

“Oh no”, says my Mum. “He’s the Head of Geography, over there”

The Sixth Form guide actually squealed. A gentle hush fell across the room. She ran over to the rest of the Sixth Form group, and whispered excitedly and with great animation.

“No way! Sir’s parents?”

“Sir, you have parents?”

Oh.

Oh.

There were Sixth Formers on their phones, texting, requesting selfies with my parents. There were people coming in from other Departments to say hi.

For weeks: “I met your Mum, sir”. For years afterwards: “Are your parents coming to Open Day, sir?”

Mums, as we know, never want to stop looking after their little babies.

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