When I worked in London, my then boss was so desperate to get her son into a decent school (by which I mean, one that didn’t have kids dealing crack at the entrance gates) that she sent him up to Birmingham to live with her sister. And I remember thinking, at the time, well that seems a little extreme; it’s just SCHOOL. Not long after that, another friend ‘borrowed’ a colleague’s address to use as her own, just so her kid could get into a good school in the right catchment area. Again, I thought, this seems a rather lengthy measure; it’s just SCHOOL. And then, just recently, a soccer mum admitted that she’d converted to catholicism so that her three boys could go to a decent (and affordable) school. And I was, like, GOD (sorry), the things people will do, eh; It’s just SCHOOL.
And yeah, it’s just school … until school starts to fuck your kid up (or, as I shall write in Ben's exit letter, have a detrimental effect on his attitude, behaviour, learning and wellbeing, as well as his handwriting, maths, social skills and dress sense). Once that starts to happen, well, hell hath no fury like a mamma who needs to get her kid into a decent school.
And so I became that mamma. I flirted with catholicism. I’ll be honest, this did not sit well with me, a devout atheist. I considered anglicanism (is that a thing? I’m not sure that’s a thing) but their schools are EXPENSIVE, man, and for reasons that I still cannot fathom, Catholic primary schools are way cheap. I know not why. Right now, Ben’s name is on the waiting list of at least half a dozen Catholic schools in the northern suburbs of Perth. They have to take a certain quota of non-believers, you see, but we’re so far down the list you have to squint to make out the different surname. Yeah, that was an issue. “But your bastard son appears to have a different surname to you and your husband, who - may I also add - appears to be a BLUE COLLAR WORKER. We take two points off for BLUE COLLAR WORKERS.” This actually happened! Only at one school, but it did happen! I’m not precisely sure about the points systems, but I definitely had to categorise our professions. I was number 2, I think, and Paul number 3. It knotted up my stomach having to fill in that form, but I did it, because getting Ben into a decent school was my NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. Fuck social engineering, my kid will be at mass on Monday.
Because I knew I couldn’t rely on the whole Catholic conversion thing, we also put our house up for sale. Yes, friends: that - primarily - is why we’re moving. I am so desperate to get my kids into a decent school that I’m prepared to go though the angst and aggravation of selling a house and buying a new one. The things we do, eh?
Let me clarify: I never thought I’d be THAT MAMMA. I’ve always thought of school - especially primary school - as just school. A nice place to send children so you can go to the gym. But somewhere along the line - specifically, term 2, year 3 - the school started to have such a negative effect on my eldest son that I was forced to rethink. When the MacBook policy was introduced in year four, and Ben provided most of his classmates with my dad’s iTunes password to download inappropriate apps and the Penis song, I knew our days were numbered.
And so, we’re out! Nearly, anyway. I came up with an elaborate story to get Ben into the most recommended of all the local primary schools, but ended up not needing it, because our new house - quite by chance - is in the catchment area. I inadvertently went to the school interview with ripped jeans and a small boy dressed up as Spider-Man, but the new principal was so lovely that she pretended not to notice as she stamped ‘accepted’ on our application. The fact that this caused a champagne-cork-popping celebration tells you how much my priorities have changed over the years, and how important I now consider school to be. Yes. I’m THAT MAMMA, and woe betide the school that introduces compulsory MacBooks for nine year olds.