It happened. With all the ceremony of the onset of menses or a new season of The Good Wife streaming on Amazon Prime, so it was decreed that I must strap my firstborn into a too-big backpack and trundle him off to kindergarten, or as Mr. Dru likes to call it, “The beginning of institutionalization.”
Unlike our overeager district, I realize most of the U.S. doesn’t begin the new academic year in what could reasonably be referred to as early-August. That’s good news for my fellow newbies, because in addition to logging a few more hours in the end-of-summer more-urine-than-water public swimming pool, there’s still time to prepare yourself for an important ritual: seeking out the A-List parents at school.
You need these people. They will host the best play dates and parties, sneak flasks into vocal music concerts and refer you to the brilliant illegal parking place that’s just a hop, skip and a jump from the school’s back door. We at Punch Drunk Village believe in giving back, and so for your quick reference, I’ve categorized the types of parents you’re likely to encounter on the first day of school. Remember: choose your friends carefully, and your frenemies extra carefully.
- The Stepford. She’s the mom with the obvious boob job who wears a maxi dress and wedge heels and rocks a fresh blow-out (how?) at 8:00 a.m. Beware this woman. She will show up the first day with a be-ribboned gift basket full of crayons (legit Crayola, not that crappy RoseArt brand) and finger paints and a Starbucks mocha for the teacher. She’ll loudly proclaim her interest in joining the PTO until she realizes it involves actual work. She will never remember your name, and breezily tell you, each morning, “I’m sorry, I’m just terrible with faces.” It’s inevitable that her daughter (wearing Lilly Pulitzer, natch) will evolve into a mean girl by second semester. The kid can’t help it; it’s in her DNA.
- The Fourth-Timer. This woman is a pro. Her kids attend three different schools and she has a color-coordinated activity chart on her kitchen wall that resembles a map of the oft-changing boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. She arrives 30 seconds before the morning bell, efficiently drops a kiss on little Zoe’s head, and speedwalks to her next destination. If you’re like me, you will simultaneously envy and fear her.
- The Surprisingly Emotional Dad. I love this guy. He’s an architect or an engineer or something, dressed in a quality polo shirt and flat-front khakis. He holds his child’s hand and chats casually with others until it’s time for line-up. Suddenly the last five years flash before him like a film strip… that first newborn bath in the hospital nursery, those tentative toddler steps on chubby legs, tricycle races on the driveway, tickle fights and family movie nights. Before he knows it, he’s a fucking mess. He’s not a pretty crier, and he’s definitely not comfortable tearing up in front of an audience. Get out of his way; he’s bolting for an exit.
- That mom who just can’t anymore. She sports an old concert t-shirt and stretched out sweatshorts with some amorphous stain on the thigh. She hasn’t showered because she was up all night with a sick baby and by the time she drank half a cup of coffee she was already running late. You might catch her cursing, something along the lines of, “Goddamnit, I forgot your lunch, honey. I’ll bring it by on my way to work.” She may or may not resemble a founder of Punch Drunk Village.
- The SuperCutes. They’ve dressed in matching clothes to show solidarity with their kindergartner. Hoodies with the logo from the dad’s chiropractic clinic, perhaps, or dri-fit Ts from a recent fun run. They are beautiful, warm, energetic and charming. Their children–fraternal twins–glow like Crew Cuts models, and even in those stolen moments on the sidewalk you see how others are drawn to them. These kids just have it. People, it’s time to spring into action. Introduce yourself. Exchange digits. Mention a bounce house or offer to carpool on rainy mornings. Liberally spend some friendship capital here; you’ll reap exponential benefits.
- The Normals. These are your people. They drive a reasonably priced sedan. They wish they’d packed kale chips in their kid’s lunch, but instead they sent frosted animal crackers. They may still be trying to lose some baby weight. They hold intelligent conversations about screen time but will happily exchange 47 texts about where to send your kid for Karate. They’ll enjoy gossiping about the Stepfords. They watch Frontline yet seem surprisingly knowledgeable about The Bachelor in Paradise. They will collect homework for your daughter on sick days and forgive you if you forget to send a thank you note for the birthday Legos they gave your son. Find them, grasp their hands, and never let them go.
BONUS: First Day of School Bingo
Earn one point for each sighting…
(If you’d rather turn this into a drinking game, well, you do you…)
- Yoga pants
- Someone recording an endless video on their iPhone
- Bob Revolution jogging stroller
- Dad in a Star Wars t-shirt
- Mom frantically telling a harried teacher about her child’s life-threatening food allergies
- Parent talking into a Bluetooth headset
- Someone pyramid scheming
- School administrator taking their traffic-directing power a little too seriously
- Dad of Ambiguous Sexuality (DOAS) in a Cub Scout uniform
- Minivan with a 13.1 bumper sticker
- Helicopter parent, helicoptering
- Someone crying
- Someone pretending not to cry
- Someone (and I’m not naming any names) holding it together beautifully until her son’s golden locks and lanky tan limbs disappear around the corner of the gym door, at which point she stops choking back tears and just lets herself feel ALL the feelings… Give her a hug.