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Playground Politics And Bullying Parents

23/07/2013 16:29 | Updated 22 May 2015

Playground politics and bullying parentsAlamy

The new school year has just started and mums expect the playground to be a friendly place, where they can catch up with other women for a chat, support or advice. In the main, the playground is like this, but for some mums the twice-daily routine can be traumatic.

I experienced the highs and the lows of mums' behaviour, and after discovering other mums had suffered in similar ways, I wrote a novel about it as a form of therapy.

Up until seven years ago, my children were at primary school and I made some great playground friends, who I still see regularly. Sadly, however, I also crossed paths with a mum who caused my time there to be very stressful.

Caroline and I had been close friends for years – our daughters were in the same class and were best friends. We enjoyed a good chat in the playground every day – until I changed my career and bought a new car in the same month.

I hadn't considered her to be the jealous type, but she was in an unhappy marriage and decided to take her frustrations out on me. It started with a little bit of sniping about my car and turned into full-blown nastiness.

Our seven-year-old daughters were constantly arranging impromptu tea at each other's houses after school, which had been fine by us. One particular day, however, Caroline yelled at my daughter in the packed playground, telling her to get a hobby instead of always wanting her friend to come and play. My daughter was heartbroken.

I phoned Caroline later that evening, but she simply told me that she no longer wanted anything to do with me – or my daughter. That in itself was bad enough, but then she started to spread lies and rumours.

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I walked into the playground a week later to have a couple of mums turn their back on me and refuse to let their daughters come round and play.

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Older, wiser and more confident now, I would tackle this head-on, but in the playground all those years ago, it was a different story. I was embarrassed at being bullied in my thirties and I didn't want to appear to be a trouble-maker, asking mums to 'take sides'.

The last thing I wanted was for my daughter to have no friends, so I smiled as we waited outside the classroom each day.

The lies about me continued, but I still kept the situation mostly to myself, just telling a few close friends. Although it was distressing, not knowing what was being said about me, it was my daughter 'losing' her best friend that devastated me the most. For her to see other girls invited back to her friend's house was indescribably painful.

I confided in my friend Jo, who lives 30 miles away and was surprised when she admitted that a similar thing was happening to her. Her sons were at a village school and because the youngest had problems with his attention span and was quite a physical boy, he didn't get invited back to friends' houses or to parties.

Jo was excluded from the 'clique' of mums and had to put up with whispered comments about her parenting skills. She eventually moved schools.

We decided to talk to other mums and were horrified to hear stories that women had kept to themselves. One woman had a son with undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. The other parents labelled him as disruptive and lectured the mum on how to be a better parent. After months of spiteful comments and criticisms, she ended up on anti-depressants.

Another mum was pilloried for working part-time. She always did the school drop-off and pick-up, but dressed in her smart suits. She found that no one would chat to her and eventually she was completely ignored. Sadly, these mums then decided that her daughter would be given the same treatment and she was excluded from after-school teas and parties. The woman moved her daughter to a larger school, where they both made friends straight away.

Although Caroline made my last few years in the playground difficult, there was one positive from the experience. Jo and I planned out a book about the playground, and I wrote Playground Politics. I discovered a passion for writing and I've gone on to write three other books, plus many children's stories.

Playground Politics is designed to be a light-hearted novel about life in the playground, with the intention of giving a balanced view of how mums behave. If anyone who is going through a similar situation to the one I went through reads it, I hope they come to realise that it's not just happening to them, and more than likely, they haven't done anything to cause the bullying.

Judy's Top Five Fun Tips - what NOT to do if you want to make friends in the playground

1. Don't jog into the playground wearing tight-fitting Lycra and start doing your hamstring stretches. You'll just annoy the mums who have a few pounds to shift.

2. Don't pull up on the yellow zigzags outside school in your brand new soft-top sports car. No one likes a show-off.

3. Don't announce loudly that your child has zoomed through the reading scheme and is now reading books from the year above. Ouch! You'll feel those daggers.

4. Don't give your child home-made muffins in a basket for the teacher each week. Those of us whose baking is less than successful will not be pleased!

5. Don't flirt with the only man in the playground. Because dads are few in numbers, competition for attention is fierce and things could turn ugly!

Playground Politics is available on www.amazon.co.uk in paperback and Kindle format.

Have you been experienced adult bullying in the school playground?

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