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My worst parent - Atheist dude aghast at prayer

They may or may not have had an appointment - memory suggests that they hadn't. The mother, controlled and pleasant, entered alongside her powerfully built husband, he of the leather jacket, cowboy boots and long, straight hair tracing down his upright back. A light beard completed the picture. I showed them into my office and, in customary opening stance, asked "And what can I do for you?"

In what seemed rather hushed tones, the father said: "You've been teaching my daughter how to pray." I was sure I misheard him. "Pardon?" I said. He repeated the allegation. My crime, as such, had been to say in assembly: "Hands together and eyes closed." There had been no request to withdraw the daughter from this part of the school day, I stated. "But we are atheists and don't want none of this praying stuff brought home. Jody (their child) tried to get us all praying before dinner." Here there seemed to be a confusion between assembly praying and saying grace at lunchtime.

We talked around the issue for some time. I forget the precise agreement reached, but there was no suggestion that burly dad wanted his Jody "left out" of either assembly or lunchtime rituals. He seemed surprisingly mild despite his "rocker" appearance.

What I discovered later was that Mr Mild, after a bevvy or three, rode around the village on his large motorbike, verbally abusing one and all. I felt lucky that in his dry state he was calm, even unnervingly so, when he had visited. But I still didn't know what to make of the encounter. As a head I had experienced complaints from time to time, but never one where I was found guilty of "teaching praying"!

The writer is a former primary headteacher in Northampton. Send in your worst parent stories to Every one that is published earns #163;50 in MS vouchers.

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