In a rare moment of madness, I recently persuaded Alpha to come to a fund-raiser quiz night Firstborn's school; you know, do your bit for the school, meet other parents, watch the teachers get mildly pissed out of school hours, good clean fun etc.
Going to school on a Saturday night is always going to be slightly odd, seeing other parents who you usually only see for a matter of minutes at the school gate for an entire evening is very strange, and drinking wine in a hall which we are usually only allowed to enter for parental assemblies and ballet recitals seems rather deviant (and not in a good way.)
We had been there for around half-an-hour when the babysitter called to say that our building was in the midst of a black-out, but all was fine and she would call back when the lights came back on. OK, so we drank a glass of wine, chatted to other parents on our table, and decided on a team name. The point at which I knew the night was not destined to go well was when Alpha insisted that our team name be the 'Funkin' Bar Stewards' (say it really fast and you will see why this is utterly inappropriate for a school quiz night); the other parents on our team, being a combination of Spanish and Italian and therefore incapable of understanding British gutter humour, readily agreed to Alpha's suggestion. Alpha claims his ankles are still bruised from where I kicked him under the table.
We completed the first two rounds (and got a shamefully low score in each), when the babysitter called back to say that it turned out there had been a small fire in or around our building and that the place was crawling with firemen, but otherwise everything was OK. Yeah right, that is so not music to paranoid parental ears. We drank more wine, in an increasingly manic fashion, and whisper-argued about who got to go home. Annoyingly, Alpha won, leaving me in an anxious and cross state, trying to concentrate on the next round which was scarily entitled 'Sunday School'.
This is where I have to confess that while Firstborn goes to Catholic school and Alpha is utterly Catholic (born, educated, indoctrinated), I am merely half a Catholic, the product of an atheist and a lapsed, and consequently have the certificate but know little about anything related to being a Catholic (in fact, I would venture I know more about Buddhism than Catholicism). So the ten quick-fire questions about Catholicism might have as well have been delivered in Ancient Greek, such was my utter lack of comprehension.
The whole situation transported me straight back to Mrs Brown's class, the scary crow-like maths teacher who blighted my pre-teen years with her confusing questions about algebra and her nasty habit of asking random students to calculate complicated sums on the spot. Needless to say I spent these years quivering at the prospect of her classes, and a lot of time staying behind after school because of my appalling maths grades.
Yes, it felt that bad; despite the glass of wine in my hand and my supposed grown-up-ness, my toes turned in, my cheeks burned and my head hung low. I grumbled something unladylike about the smug faces of the most annoyingly together team, the Holy Rollers, who had managed a full ten out of ten with their encyclopedic knowledge of the Old Testament, earning myself a shocked look from the parent sitting next to me. Oops.
By the time the auction was underway and the richer parents desperately trying to outdo each other with increasingly outrageous bids (I mean, really, how can anyone want to spend over £500 on a manky rabbit-fur gilet? Good cause etc be damned) to rapturous applause from the rest of the crowd, I was desperate to get out of there. Pleading a trip to the loo, I sneaked out for a much-needed ciggy outside the school gates, half expecting an irate teacher to grab me by the scruff of the neck and march me to the head's office. Tempted as I was to do a runner, I finally skulked back in to the hall and tried to answer yet another series of silly questions about stuff I have no knowledge of and even less interest in.
Finally, the last round ground to a painful halt. Yep, unsurprisingly the Funkin' Bar Stewards came last. But then came a fleeting moment of true enjoyment; the florid and frankly rotund quiz master was forced to utter our name when reading out our shameful score for all to gloat over, which he did with as much distaste as he could muster (an impressive effort), shooting our table A Very Dark Look as he did so.
And there ends the tale of my first, and very possibly my last, parent and teacher social event at Firstborn's school.
These things should come with a public health warning. I don't think my recovery is going to be quick or easy, and it may well leave lasting psychological scars.
Should I be enjoying these things? Should I throw myself into school socials with gusto? Or is it OK to be a parental wall-flower? Am I wrong to hate it, or is it that my previous belief - that I had managed to evolve from the awkward creature of my school days sporting fetching and rumpled knee-socks with hair a halo of frizz - is completely wrong, that despite my adult discovery of Frizz-Ease and development of a reasonable level of poise, inside I am still that bundle of anxiety, prone to dropping things and becoming tongue-tied at inopportune moments? God, what a hideous thought.
But the most perplexing thing is, why the hell do I care?