The Playground Mafia: a book review
I have been standing in our school playground for over nine years. Not continuously. Obviously. Although there are times when it feels like it. No. Just at the start and end of each school day.
At first it was great. I will talk to anyone, pretty much. I met the other parents, caught up with friends and talked to older parents who knew what was going on. A complete godsend to any new school parent.
As the years have elapsed, my enthusiasm has decidedly waned.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love picking up my children and catching up with their day. The difference is that most of my friends have either gone back to work or their children walk home by themselves. So no playground catch-up time. Plus, I’m now the older parent who knows what is going on. Well, most of the time. Novelty has gone. I should have left at the same time as my Eldest packed up and whizzed off to secondary school. Except, at that point, I had two more children and another five years to go. (Two and half years now left …and counting)
Secondary school is a contrast. For a while it made me appreciate the end-of-day primary school ritual. There is no standing in the playground waiting for a 13 year old to swan out of class cemented to her gaggle of giggling friends, where everyone seems to tower over you, except the teachers.
There is no chance to learn from long established secondary school parents, or reacquaint with adults you’ve not seen since toddler group. Unless you head along to a PTA social event. Now, I need to rely on school communication and my …now what do they call them…young person to keep me informed. This last avenue of information is strictly on a need-to-know-basis, of course.
It was with a renewed sense of curiosity that I started reading “The Playground Mafia“. My nine and a half years of playground observation have not gone passed without a fair amount of human watching. I was intrigued to see if the categories fitted in with my experience.
The Playground Mafia is set out as a field guide and written with humour. It has a fairly comprehensive list of types of parents that can be encountered in the playground as the school children escape their classes. I noticed no grandparents or other carers, but I’m guessing that the authors needed to draw a line somewhere. Although, I think this was a mistake, as both of these categories certainly are part of the playground dynamics.
Categories include Pushy Mum, One-son Mum, Helicopter Mum and Flaky Mum, who I can recognize. There is also Sporty dad, Toyboy Dad and Midlife Crisis Dad who I’ve not spotted in our playground.
I couldn’t help sniggering as I read. Yes, I spotted some friends and I spotted some characteristics in others. As I read on, it became slightly repetitive, but as already explained, the novelty of the playground has worn thin for me. It’s the sort of book that is best dipped into, rather than being read cover to cover.
I also could not help thinking that our playground isn’t quite so racey as the one in the book. Either that or I have been oblivious to all the signs of extra dubious activities.
If you have spent any time waiting to pick up children, whether at school or an after school club, you will spot somebody in this book that you recognize. Failing that there is a section at the back for cocktails and also collective nouns for the different categories, which might well appeal.
The end message seems to be to find the like minded people in your playground. From my experience, I’d say that is great advice.
I’ll be leaving this out for my friends to read, next time they come over. Or maybe I should leave it on the school bench at pick up time and just watch to see who takes it home.
Disclaimer: I was sent this book free of charge as part of the Britmums Book Club, which I thorougly recommend. All opinions are my own and honest. I was under no pressure from PTA Mum. Really.