Thursday, 8 November 2012

Mummy on the Edge/ Families Magazine October 2012

Tiger and Sloth Mother go head to head in the battle of going out vs staying in and studying.

Last Sunday, Sensible Mum and Mummy on the Edge fought a battle. Sensible Mum thought she should stay at home with Mini-Me and take the opportunity of the last full, free day before her 11-Plus exam (which would determine her secondary school - and therefore her Path In Life) to do some last minute maths and verbal reasoning practice. Mummy on the Edge however, thought that she should grab the opportunity of probably the last, hottest and bluest sky of the summer to go out and enjoy the Thames Festival on the Southbank in the glorious, day-glo sunshine. The battle was long and it was hard. There was guilt, vacillation, recrimination and finally, resolution; I think that my alter egos may have discovered a new psychological model.

I'm actually not as freaked out by the whole Year 7 admissions thing as I thought I would be, instead managing to remain fairly Zen about the whole thing. It has been at the back of my mind for several years, ever since my attempts to plug my ears with my fingers and pretend I couldn't hear whilst party to the discussions on the subject by other parents at the Speech and Drama class that Mini-Me attended from Year 1. I eventually realised that self-delusion wouldn't make the prospect disappear. Last year, when the Year Sixes were taking their 11-Plus exams, I remember seeing the ashen faces of their normally cheerful parents, people whom I would ordinarily stop to chat to, now hurrying away at pick-up time, looking stressed out and bleary eyed, not wishing to make eye contact with each other or anyone. This time next year, that will be us, I sensed with oppressive dread.

Now the moment is here. There is not much more that Mini-Me can do in the final days before exam day. I've discovered that I harbour too much guilt to be the Tiger Mother I thought I should be, but also too much surrogate ambition to be the passive non-interventionist (Sloth Mother?) either.

At the start of the summer holidays, Mini-Me had attended a mock test day (at the same time frightening and enlightening) organised by Chuckra education followed by one week of Bright Stars Learning summer school. In need of a holiday, we flew to Lake Garda in Italy. Ryanair caused me no bother with my fishing vest, which I bought online a few days before travelling to carry all the extra stuff (passports, money, camera, phone, mixed nuts (brain food), paperbacks and, in a big pocket on the back, Mini-Me's four Susan Daughtrey Verbal Reasoning Technique and Practice books – just to keep the juices flowing) that I would normally put in my handbag, which one is not allowed to carry in addition to one's cabin bag. Luckily, Mini-Me has not yet reached the stage where everything is an embarrassment, so being in the care of a nutter wearing a green, oversized beer-bellied-man's fishing vest with loads of bulging pockets emblazoned with "ZEBCO Let's go fishing" on the front and across the back was not the trauma-inducing event I feared it might be (although, admittedly, it may come out later, in therapy).

In Italy, it was too hot to do nothing so we did lots of sightseeing, walking and eating (and just a little bit of Verbal Reasoning and Maths of course). We enjoyed tagliatelle, pizza, risotto, grilled fish not to mention papardelle with hare ragu and spinach dumplings - and litres of yummy gelato. By the time we came back to London, the ZEBCO fishing vest was a tight fit, due to my gelatover-indulgence and my brain was a spaghetti serving of boat, bus, train and aeroplane timetables. Hiring a car offers a lot more freedom in a place like that, but I haven't yet worked my way up to driving abroad.

Now back to reality; this is the busiest time I remember experiencing. I have resorted to a traditional pen and diary to help me keep up with all the important dates I have to remember, because the life-changing-phone-gaget-thingy and googlecalendar are simply not reliable enough. 11-Plus; music entry exams; open evenings; the start of my Sing and Sign term. I'm not complaining about having no time for an adult social life. Being the month of my 40th birthday, I had pencilled out most of it anyway, to accommodate the time I will inevitably need to spend mourning the loss of my youth in a depressive stupor; Mini-Me's exams give me a socially acceptable reason not to celebrate. Yay.

In case you are wondering, it was Sensible Mum who won the battle between staying in and going out. Mummy-on-the-edge would have come home too late and Mini-Me needs her early nights in the run up to the exam. Good luck to those of you with children in Year 6.

For more Life on the Edge with Angelina, including her choice of 11-Plus websites, visit Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at

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