The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Leigh Clark Headshot

Back To School: A Parent's Guide to the Playground

Posted: Updated:

I hate school. I'm 37 years old but have to go to school twice a day to take/collect my children. The playground contains my two least favourite things in the world en masse; parents and other people's children. Parents are like packs of animals but with much less personality. They stand in groups chatting inanely about Centre Parks, whilst other parents pretend to listen but really they just wait for them to stop talking so they can top-trump the story with tales of a five-star, all-inclusive where Jemima swam with dolphins and Tarquin broke the world record for being the best he could be at absolutely everything ever!

To give you an idea of the horrors of the place I have compiled the following list of the cliques that congregate daily on their regular spots and highlight the qualities that secure their position in said clique. If you don't hate parents now, you will do when you've read this...

The Gobs on Legs
These are the parents who have no shame in stubbing their cigarettes out on the school gate and wander around in their slippers and screaming at their children for no apparent reason. Always overheard talking about having chicken nuggets for tea (every day) and are oblivious  to the fact that the word 'fuck' isn't commonly used in the presence of minors. Everyone knows their kids' names (Kayden, Jaden and Binladen) because a) They're screamed at the top of their lungs every five seconds and B) they're tattooed on the back of the parents' necks.
 
The 4x4s 
These parents pull up on the double yellows in their massive cars, kick the kids out of the car, drive off and leave their kids to wait in the playground alone and wet (if it's raining).

The Wet Ones 
It's hard to tell whether they've just put a coat on over their nighties or dressed that way intentionally. They're the 'free spirited' parents who do everything, including speaking at a snail's pace, act a bit stoned and rather than discipline their children they ask them "why did you feel the need to do that?". Also, when their kids are mercilessly kicking the shit out of the reception kids, they shout "time-out" instead of slapping them across the head and threatening to cancel Christmas like a normal parent.

The Paris Hiltmums
These flashy mutton mothers turn up in the playground at 8.30am, as if they've fallen from the set of some vacuous staged reality show, dressed for a nightclub, fake tanned to buggery with a pair of huge sunglasses on and a small, yappy dog under their boney arms. The Hiltmums are always the first to don a maxi-dress at the first sniff of sunshine and the first to streak like chocolate on a profiterole when it rains.

The Unstables
The parents nobody wants to stand too close to because they end up indiscreetly telling you how they got their flakey skin condition and refer to you as if you are of a similar ilk. They generally carry the aroma of a fusty caravan or a cupboard under the stairs and their unruly children have the power to make them cry in an instant and so can yours, so be careful. If they're kind enough to offer you a bon bon, it'll probably be a few years old and covered in pocket fluff so just say no! 

The Bitches
They volunteer to help out at every event but stand there with their arms folded, bitching quietly and looking everyone up and down. These 'bitches' incidentally, were exactly the same when they were at school, and their daughters are exactly the same as them. The deluded mums generally have the same wardrobe as their daughters and even attend the same after-school zumba class. These mother/daughter duos are often mistaken for sisters by people who are either totally blind or completely taking the piss.

The God Botherers
Ready to turn any occasion into a full on worship session. These Bible bashers will invite you to a seemingly innocent coffee morning and suddenly whip out the tambourines, throw holy water in your face and force you to repent for all past conduct before getting you to sign a piece of paper that you are led to believe confirms your place at a teddy bears' picnic, but in fact ensures you are now permanently committed to a life of worship FOREVER and ever, amen! 

The Suits
Most likely work flexi-time at the local authority and buy all of their clothes and furniture from Next. They don't speak much and when they do it's about their job. Often seen wearing a photo card around their neck and often married to someone who also works in the same department at the local authority. Their favourite colour is beige and both parents are unnaturally passionate about demonstrating that.

The Oldies
You never know whether these are the child's parents or grandparents but they're a lot older than the average parent and they all stand together probably talking about jam recipes, the war or free bus journeys. 

The Dads
These turn up in suits or in casual sports-wear. They stand together straight backed and arms folded across their puffed out chests, afraid that if they relax at all, their masculinity will be compromised and they'll be mistaken for a dinner lady. 

The Breeders
More than likely to be stood with a double buggy and a variety of multicoloured stains down their tops. The genders of their several children cannot be defined as they have never had a haircut. They're often late to school and are the least sociable of the species. Can often be spotted standing alone and laughing or crying maniacally. 

The CBAs
They live less than 50m away but drive to the school and sit in the car and check their Facebook accounts on their smartphones, while the kid sits in the passenger seats waiting for the bell to ring. The bell rings, the car door opens and the mum updates her status with something like this... "Kids! Who'd have them? Now what to do today?" 

Guardians of the Threshold 
Similar in personality to the 'gobs on legs'. There are also parents who manage to avoid the threshold of the playground altogether, these are often heavy-smokers who turn up at the gates with a couple of vicious looking cross-bred dogs. They are frowned upon by all, but left well alone and give everyone in the playground some tasty subject matter other than the achievements of their own children, Ofsted and the quality of the tarmac they're expected to stand on for 10 minutes either side of the day.

The Peripherals
These individuals have no desire to commit to any of the above groups. These are the quiet observers. They gather in pairs, not packs, make quiet observations on the behavioral patterns of others and write mildly amusing blog posts about them. 

So that's the playground for you. As nightmarish now as it was then. I'm pretty sure I've covered all cliques but if, after years of standing in the playground yourself you can think of any other additions to the list please feel free to add your observations to the comment box below.

Around the Web

Back to School - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Back to School at Amazon.com

Back to School - Fashion Ideas, Supplies and More - Parents.com

Back to School | USA.gov

Back to School - Walmart.com

September still gives me that back-to-school feeling

Back to school: Teachers frustrated, nervous about new evaluation system set ...

Back to school: the prep task teachers shouldn't forget

Back to school on Tuesday

Kid-friendly tunes for your back-to-school commute

Presented by Havana Club