Sunday, 6 July 2014

Taming the tiger mum

I have always been far too lazy to be a tiger mother. Forcing my children to devote their spare time to improving their sentence structure, decoding mind-frazzling puzzles and endlessly practising scales, rather than their preferred activities of shooting things on the Xbox and devising ever more ingenious ways to irritate other family members just seemed way too much like hard work. But now the dread spectre of secondary school looms large I begin to wonder if I have perhaps missed a trick.

Even as the most mathematically challenged mother I have worked out that if x= four sons to educate and y= approximately £20,000 school fees per son, per year then parents= too poor. This leaves me with two options. Option one is the true sloth mother choice, simply let my boys brave the local comp and hope for the best, or at least that they survive the experience intact and free from an addiction to any class of drugs.

Now call me a helicopter mother but I have seen the boys that go to our local comp and they scare me. Given that my eldest has strong nerdy tendencies and a marked preference for reading over football, I fear that taking the path of least resistance would see him having his head forced down the toilet by nasty rough boys within his first week. You might think I exaggerate, but this is exactly what happened to the last sweet little boy who was fed to this pride of schoolboy lions by his laissez faire mother.

Moving swiftly on to option two. Selective schools. Well this is where I feel that in failing to roundly punish children every time their thoughts turned from those of academic improvement I have let them down. While I am a firm believer that childhood is a time to do as little as possible, after all adulthood is deeply marred by the requirement to work hard to make ends meet, this philosophy looks a little shaky as I put my children into the ring against the cubs of tiger mothers.

Yesterday my boy auditioned for a music place at a local selective school. The odds are not stacked in his favour as thousands (I exaggerate not) of children vie for 20 places, but he valiantly carried his cello into battle. I even made him wear a shirt in an attempt to curry favour with those music teachers who would decide his fate.

I soon discovered that I am an amateur in these matters as we sat down next to a girl in the full regalia of a gold embroidered sari strumming away on a sitar that was at least twice her size. Clearly a shirt and about the fifth cello in the room were not going to cut the mustard against competition like this.

Perhaps I should have had some inkling of what we were up against during the soloists concert at his primary school. While my boy gave a perfectly creditable performance, with only a few screeching wrong notes to let him down, a fellow pupil gave a virtuoso performance I would pay money to see. The rumour mill at school assures me that this level of excellence is achieved courtesy of some particularly red in tooth and claw tiger mothering.

These are early days in the rounds of tests and exams that will seal his fate. But it's too late to get fierce now and I have to pray that being such a pussycat mother won't end up being tacked onto the roster of parenting errors I have made.

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