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Avoiding the Playground Mafia... Online

24/09/2014 11:03 BST | Updated 23/11/2014 10:59 GMT

If you have read some of my previous posts you will be aware of how uncomfortable I feel in the many new situations I am thrust into because of having children (check out I Have No Interest In Your Child's Bowel Habits if not). Well I now have a new social situation. But this time I am putting my foot down and I am not getting involved in it. I will not be part of this group. I will not be passively drawn in. I will not sit quietly and encourage them. I am of course talking about the Playground Mafia.

Staying apart from the Playground Mafia at the school gate isn't too hard really because they have no interest in involving me. I know one other mum well and am happy chatting with her if we are there at the same time. And I kind of know a couple of the other parents so occasionally will get a hello or a smile but otherwise I am ignored. I have seen dads dropping off in the morning but so far I'm the odd one out at pick up time. Which is fine with me. Making small talk is not a strong point of mine. The only thing worse than standing alone, not talking to anyone in an uncomfortable new situation is standing next to another uncomfortable dad who you have nothing in common with and no interest in getting to know. And in case you were wondering I have no current friend vacancies.

What I hadn't really appreciated until recently is that this awkward social environment doesn't just exist at the school gates. It is online too. The joy of Facebook is you can meet people and connect with those who you may not normally. So there are Facebook groups for schools and parents can make play dates or update each other on extra-curricular activities. Great. Much easier than word of mouth or worse still relying on a child to pass on a message. "Football club will be finishing fifteen minutes early this week." "Anyone have children interested in singing? I'm looking into setting up a choir group." It's a really useful way of communicating. Also useful for a friend of mine the other day to report that her child and his granddad had managed to accidentally steal another child's scooter from school! But of course people don't only use the internet in a nice, helpful, interactive way. They use it to bitch and moan. The other day there were simultaneous conversations going on; one about how their child's homework was too easy and the other about how their child's homework was too hard. And they weren't just discussing it, they were getting very worked up! They seemed to think that one teacher was either too lazy to set proper homework or thought their children were idiots. And they implied the other teacher was overly demanding and ruining their child's schooling. So they all add their own opinions and wind each other up. "That's terrible! They are singling out your child! I would go straight to the headteacher!" Yeah, it really sounds like the teachers are been deliberately obstructive to your child's learning needs. Or maybe it is week two with a brand new class of thirty children and they haven't quite worked out what level everyone is at yet? Give the teachers a bloody chance!

And then there are the "My child is being bullied" Facebook rants. Now if my child was being bullied I would be upset and worried for them. I would want to speak to the class teacher to see how it was being dealt with. I don't want to imply that bullying isn't important. However, would I post a "I'm fuming...!" Facebook status? No. Would I assume that the teacher was not interested in the best interests of my child and was showing favouritism to the other child? No. Would I demand to know who the other chid was and that they were removed from the class? No. Would I make a big enough fuss to make everyone think of my child as a victim forever? No. "My child has been attacked by another child twice!" Oh no! You mean to say they didn't tie up the child and separate him from all other children after the first attack?! I mean really. What do you expect? All the children can't be watched all of the time. Incidents will happen. Incidents, not 'attacks'. How many 'attacks' really happen in primary school? I think that may be a bit of an over the top Daily Mail reaction to a childhood scuffle. I saw a comment from someone saying that they think the police should be called following an incident at school. Great idea - the police don't have enough to do as it is. Get them to come and lock up the little 6 year old. He obviously a bad egg. Get him out of the system now before he gets carried away with growing up and being a child. How ridiculous. The next day it may be your child who has done the hitting - going to get the police on them too? It's life. Shit happens. Yes, they should be addressed. But in a sensible grown up way with the school. And if your child doesn't learn to deal with stuff like this at school then they are going to have a tough time as an adult. Your outraged fury and false sense of persecution will only isolate your child further and make them grow up thinking the world is against them. Don't let your very understandable worry for child's wellbeing somehow become an attack on a teacher or school. Sure there are bad schools and lazy teachers but on the whole these people are doing that job because they are interested in children and doing the best for them. Believe me they are plenty of easier jobs they could be doing if they didn't really care.

There will be times when I won't understand why a school are doing something in a particular way. There will be days when I worry about how my child is getting on at school. There may even be times when I really disagree with the way a school is doing something. But I hope I stick to my word and deal with it like a grown up, in a supportive and cooperative way and don't get lured into bitching about it at the gates, or worse still on Facebook. You know me, I'm not one to rant online...

Read the full version of this blog by clicking here... http://fatherhoodstories.com/2014/09/18/the-playground-mafia/

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