Ping. ‘Does anyone know if our ‘meet the teachers’ session is tonight or tomorrow?’ Frantically I rummage through the closet for a raincoat that my eight-year-old has not outgrown in the summer.

Ping. ‘I put it in my diary last term. It’s definitely tonight.’

My ten-year-old can’t get a shiny water bottle with initials on it. Where did I put it? He hates the other.

Another ping. “No, it’s tomorrow. I have received this letter. Wait, I’ll take a picture of that. take it.

Ping, ping, ping.

Welcome to the worst thing about being a mother near the start of a new term: the constant cruelty of a school WhatsApp group (file image)

Welcome to the worst thing about being a mother near the start of a new term: the constant cruelty of a school WhatsApp group (file image)

It’s only three minutes until school, my youngest son wants help with his laces and my daughter’s hair looks like a bird’s nest.

Oh, and I have 25 unread messages on my phone.

Welcome to the worst thing about being a mother near the start of a new term: the constant cruelty of a school WhatsApp group.

A communal conversation connects parents whose children are in the same class. But mostly, the barrage of meaningless, rude, hectoring or passive-aggressive messages makes me want to tear my hair out.

During the first few weeks, it reaches fever pitch, an avalanche of messages arriving before I’ve even had my first cup of tea.

There are 24 pings about bike ability (‘Do they want to wear a PE kit to do this?’ ‘Didn’t you see the letter about that? Does anyone have a spare bike that Freddie can use?’ ‘), who as my autistic son can’t even ride a bike, really great.

Later, a cardigan is left at school. big mistake

‘Has anyone seen Millie’s red cardigan? It’s brand new.’

At the negative end of about 30 unhelpful replies, ‘Hope you get it’, follow one after another. Why can’t they answer privately?

There’s a quick flurry of questions about second-hand uniform sales, how to sign up for a dance club, who’s sick that day, what to log in to Microsoft Teams and so on, the ever-present black hole.

My husband, Dom, has somehow managed to avoid joining any of these groups and, after many years at school, still doesn’t know anyone’s name. Ignorance is bliss as far as he is concerned.

There's a quick flurry of questions about second-hand uniform sales, how to sign up for a dance club, who's sick that day, what to log in to for Microsoft Teams and so on, with questions about the ever-present black hole (file image )

There's a quick flurry of questions about second-hand uniform sales, how to sign up for a dance club, who's sick that day, what to log in to for Microsoft Teams and so on, with questions about the ever-present black hole (file image )

There’s a quick flurry of questions about second-hand uniform sales, how to sign up for a dance club, who’s sick that day, what to log in to for Microsoft Teams and so on, with questions about the ever-present black hole (file image )

The arrangement and classification of mothers takes me, with a shudder, back to my school days.

There is the PTA mom, or ‘class representative’, who always organizes the teacher’s gift (for which I am genuinely, if grudgingly, grateful) and who knows everyone and everything. She photographs school letters and emails and sends them to the group.

She’s the CEO of Class Mums and Dads and I’m secretly jealous of her. She takes it upon herself, without restraint, to remind us of events to come.

‘Don’t forget your kids should wear yellow and blue today to support Ukraine!’ PTA mom messages like me walking my kids out the door in their usual uniforms. ‘And there’s tea and cake in the hall after school to raise funds. I just made a carrot cake and two banana breads. And who is bringing it?’ she trills.

Then there’s the mom who’s never happy about anything and uses the group to air her concerns. His messages usually start with a crisp, ‘I’m not funny, but…’ and end with, ‘I’m going to complain.’

Like: ‘I’m not being funny, but does anyone know why they stopped letting the kids have snacks? Leticia hates the rice cakes they are giving her. I’m going to complain.’

From time to time the school is informed of his latest arrests and there is an ominous note in the newsletter asking parents to speak to the brave school secretary if they have any concerns.

There are also parents whose children are always sick. ‘Horatio’s temperature is 40c. Do you think I should still send him in?’

A lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of Calpol and the details of Rebecca’s disease problem follows. All before 7.30am.

There is a mother who uses the chat as an emotional support group. A grieving mum-netter described one of the parents’ messages as ‘like a Greek tragedy’, with dozens of posts about how fast their child is growing up and how they are not ready for it.

And let’s not forget the ghost parents you’ve never heard of and never seen at school. His questions draw almost audible eyerolls from the group.

‘Do you know when school ends today?’

Er, 3:30pm, like every other day.

And there’s the odd clueless dad (sorry, dad) who never knows what’s going on — ‘when did they change uniforms?!’ – and who the PTA mom takes under her wing.

No wonder there are sub-groups, secretly formed to rant about a particular mum who annoys everyone, or to organize secret pub trips (file image)

No wonder there are sub-groups, secretly formed to rant about a particular mum who annoys everyone, or to organize secret pub trips (file image)

No wonder there are sub-groups, secretly formed to rant about a particular mum who annoys everyone, or to organize secret pub trips (file image)

A friend told me about an outspoken anti-vax*er mom who tried to organize a protest outside a school during the Covid-19 rollout, which led to an uproar on Facebook and head-on.

Another friend told me about the time the mother of a child in her six-year-old class accidentally posted risque bikini shots while on holiday in Marbella, much to the delight of the token dad in the group.

‘If I may say so, you look great Sasha.’

In any less crazy existence, this rich tapestry of humanity would be entertaining. But, most of the time, I’m just too busy and too short to appreciate it.

Instead, something that should temporarily connect mothers and create a sense of community and camaraderie becomes another source of resentment and frustration, another distraction.

So it’s no surprise that there are sub-groups, set up in secret, usually to talk about a particular mum who annoys everyone, or organize secret pub trips. .

‘Why does she think it’s okay to order us all cake? Does she think we have nothing better to do?!’ They mourn over a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Good for them. But the parents who really freak me out are the ones who suddenly leave the group. When I approached one such brave soul at the school gate the other day to tell her how much I admired her, she shrugged helplessly.

There is a mother who uses the chat as an emotional support group.  A grieving mum netter described a message from parents as 'like a Greek tragedy', with dozens of posts about how fast their child is growing up and how they are not ready for it (file image).

There is a mother who uses the chat as an emotional support group.  A grieving mum netter described a message from parents as 'like a Greek tragedy', with dozens of posts about how fast their child is growing up and how they are not ready for it (file image).

There is a mother who uses the chat as an emotional support group. A grieving mum netter described a message from parents as ‘like a Greek tragedy’, with dozens of posts about how fast their child is growing up and how they are not ready for it (file image).

‘What pushed you over the edge?’ I asked.

‘Well, put it this way, I couldn’t give a toss about Rosie losing her PE skirt for the fourth time, or that Sarah’s cryptic message was deleted before anyone could screenshot it. And asked, ‘Are you alright, hun?’,’ he replied.

OK, enough. I wish I could do the same. But here’s the thing, and here’s my confession, every now and then I’m the helpless one who has to beg for spare carrots to take Charlie to Food Tech. Or who just can’t find the email that confirmed what time the coach is coming back from that game.

With three kids in two different schools, I can’t always keep up — especially at the beginning of the year. And for every 300 messages that make me want to hang my phone on the wall, there will be one or two that are priceless.

So I’m stuck in this purgatory until my last child leaves school, years from now.

In the meantime, there’s one comfort tool to keep me sane: the mute button.

#reminder #parents #PTA.. #save #tyranny #school #whatsapp

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