Great Britain

The smells of parents’ evening

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Parents’ evenings and the school run aren’t what they used to be.

Back in the day, when our kids were in Reception class and more or less toilet trained, a friendly chat with their teacher about how little ‘un was settling in felt like a lap of honour after years of sleepless nights, foul nappies and teething. During a life-affirming five-minute conversation with a kind but exhausted teacher, there were only ever two unsettling elements to the whole night.

Firstly, Reception class furniture is very, very small. Perfect height for four-year-olds but if you’re 6ft 3in, it feels like you’re squatting on chairs in a Sylvanian Families cottage, with your knees skimming your earlobes while talking around a table that would comfortably fit in a Wendy house.

Secondly, THAT smell. A heady cocktail of stale farts, old sweat and industrial strength bleach that gets so far up your nostrils, it transports you all the way back to your own miserable high school days.

And then there’s the school run. Restraining your director’s commentary on your fellow motorists’ driving abilities to a PG certificate, instead of its usual ode to Quentin Tarantino, is not easy. The last thing you want is your nipper reprising Samuel L. Jackson’s gloriously foul-mouthed “SAY WHAT AGAIN!” scene from Pulp Fiction during Show And Tell.

But with kids who are now 20 and 17, those days are well and truly over. Daughter #2’s parents’ evening at LIPA Sixth Form in Liverpool last week was scheduled to last 10 minutes, so daughter #1, who lives five minutes up the road in £1,941-a-term university halls, attended and took detailed notes on our behalf.

It was either that or an awkward FaceTime with a tutor where we’d all talk over the top of each other and learn precisely nothing.

And anyway, daughter #1’s a trainee lawyer. She looks so deep into your soul, she can see you changing your mind.

And as for the school run, this week’s column comes to you from the 17.37 Lancaster to London Euston service as yours truly chaperones daughter #2 on a callback to a drama school that even I’d heard of.