‘We are navigating the battleground that is primary school
My first experience of competitive parenting occurred at an altogether innocuous dinner party. As fairly new parents, we were pumped for a night of stimulating adult conversation which did not revolve around our children’s bowel movements or the adventures of an obnoxious cartoon pig. After just one sip of syrupy goodness, it became abundantly clear that there was just one topic of merit up for discussion for the duration of the evening: our offspring. We made it through the starters relatively unscathed; some general enquiries as to our children’s gender (boyand girl), ages (two years and two months respectively) and a text message from my husband sat directly next to me asking, “Do you think any of them watch Game of Thrones?” By the time the main course was served, things had taken a rather more serious turn. Words like “education” and “aspirations” were being thrown into the pot quicker than car keys at a “Swingers of ’98” reunion. So, myself and my husband, poured ourselves another large one, kept our heads downand threw in some head-nods at appropriate intervals. This seemed to be proving effective… until we realised that the conversation had stalled. We raised our heads to find Chief Tiger Mother staring directly at us. Expectantly. It appeared they had barrelled through the topic of schools and the current line of questioning involved something along the lines of “What were our wishes for them as they got older?” I turned to my husband and said, “That they don’t end up in jail, am I right?!” We weren’t asked back again.
Fast forward a few years and we are navigating the battleground that is Primary School. Did you ever stop to think why there is so much reading material available on “How to…” or “What to expect…” in relation to a baby or toddler yet scant tomes of wisdom re the school years? The reason is simple: nothing will prepare you. Nothing. You can no longer cocoon yourself within the cosy haze of the toddler years: you must breach the trenches into unchartered territory. This is Competitive Parenting mecca and the Alpha Mother is Queen of all that she surveys. Within mere minutes of the school term beginning, one or several of the CPs (Competitive Parents) will invariably have an issue with how their little Formaldehyde is adjusting. Formaldehyde is generally the same child who will have taught all the others an extensive vocab of swear words the previous year and how to punch someone without leaving a bruise. CP will enquire as to how your child is adjusting, “Does he have any issues?” Listen up, because this is Lesson One in how to deal with a CP. Do not give them any information. They will use this to their benefit and theirs only to induce a momentous headache on the part of the already frazzled teacher who has the “pleasure” of guiding Formaldehyde. Your response to any enquiries of this nature will be the same, “No. No issues at all.” You will use this response when they are extolling their child’s virtues on the day school reports are received… “No. No issues at all.” For Friday spelling tests… “No. No issues at all.” School tours, Christmas plays, swimming lessons…. you see where I’m going with this? And whilst this CP is persistent he/she is generally outwitted at every turn by the true ace of spades of the CP Pack… the “I’m just not that into all this competition nonsense...” This is the new Alpha Mum. You will be easily fooled by her laidback, nonchalant guise. The first indicator that you are indeed dealing with official leader of the CP’s is that they desist in speaking as soon as she opens her mouth. Her mantra of “Let them be children” rolls off her tongue which such ease, you are almost convinced of her assurance that she does indeed practice what she preaches. Alpha Mum has an iron clad schedule. Her children generally have an activity each day after school. She will be the one to discuss an appropriate plan of action for her fellow CP as how best to aid little Formaldehyde. Said plan of action will be delivered in such a way as to make the other CP confident that it was in fact she who hatched such a genius course of action.
But after all is said and done, know this, as you flop on the sofa exhausted, to watch Game of
Thrones and you take that first sip of the magic elixir which causes you to exhale contentedly; somewhere, an Alpha Mum is sitting in a corridor on an uncomfortable chair, listening to her offspring eviscerate “Clair de Lune”; and even though she will never admit it, deep down we all know where she would rather be.