Tuesday 4 January 2011

Mummy on the Edge FamiliesNW Mag Jan Feb 2011

So, it's January and Mini-Me is a third of the way through Year 4. Now, I'm not going to take you with me on my current introspective journey of wonderment at how I on earth I reached this point, where I have sole leadership of a whole person with their own thoughts and ideas (sometimes more complete and reasoned than mine) or how I can see in slow-mo-car-crash-vision that I am influencing this person in ways that are beyond my capacity to prevent. Suffice to say, kids learn from what they see, not what you tell them. And this is becoming more apparent with every passing day: After instructing Mini-Me to amuse a friend's much younger daughter in her bedroom after volunteering myself to look after her for the afternoon, my daughter came to me, obviously perturbed, with her head in her hands stuttering “She’s touching everything! And standing on my books! And... and... I... I... I can’t cope!”. Yes, children learn from what they observe in the adults around them. So I am well aware that in Mini-Me’s case I have no one to blame but myself therefore, from now on I'm going to make a concerted effort to prevent any non-copeage on my part from seeping out from under the closed door of the loo. It's the least I can do.
I used to be the one to plug fingers in my state school ears and shout “I’m not listening I’m not listening!” when all the Speech and Drama mummies would gather around the table talking about prep schools and private schools and grammar schools and all other manner of Uber-Schools not aforementioned and homework and verbal reasoning and eleven plus blah blah blah! It ACTUALLY made me want to vomit with anxiety to the point where my brain rebelled and I decided that I would simply let nature take its course and Mini-Me would do well enough wherever she went and whatever happened. But last summer I had a life changing moment. My friend who has moved to Dubai was here for the summer and we had arranged for her little girl to have a sleepover with Mini-Me. She had enrolled her daughter in a Leaders are Readers summer school, so while Mini-Me was at the council-run Music and Art Camp banging drums, pouring rice into rain-makers and painting t-shirts, my friend's daughter was intensively studying Maths and English so as to prevent the stagnation of her brain while away from her posh and competitive school in Dubai.

So I went to pick her daughter up from North London Collegiate (the venue for the summer school) to bring her home. When I entered their hallowed grounds I felt myself gasp involuntarily. There was some kind of “aura” about the place. It was lovely. I don't even know why I thought it was lovely but it just was. I could feel myself starting to float as my body and mind became possessed by the absolute knowledge and surety that my Mini-Me was MEANT to study there (with a 100% bursary/ scholarship for there could be no other way) or in a place like it (i.e. Watford Grammar) . I made my way through the corridors of the artsy-fartsy wing which housed (I think) theatre studios and my mind pasted Mini-Me's head on to the pictures of the high-achieving acting types in black leotards and high achieving music types with flutes at their lips and harps at their hips (but I was in such a state I might even have conjured them in my head to begin with). Reader, I physically ached with longing for the opportunities I never had to be bestowed upon my child.

Well, after a term of inaction I have come to the late realisation that happy thoughts, lighting candles and cosmic ordering are, none of them going, to help Mini get into Uber-School. We are going to have to go down the extra-curricular route. This is before I've even established whether Uber-School is the right place for her. It might too intense. Thankfully, we still have time to figure that out. But after quizzing parents of Year 4s and 5s and 6s on subjects such as tutors and school choices and admissions (I've become that woman), I've come to the conclusion that it's wise to start preparing in some way for the possibility. I've been told that tutors are able to steer children in the direction of the specific school they are trying for. So I'm thinking I might actually give up lunch and central heating in favour of paying one! Before I do that, however, at risk of mutual strangulation, I suppose I could have a go myself. My sister passed down to me a lot of old books and papers from her kids who are now teenagers. Its all in a box ready for me to take it out and stare gormlessly at it. I've also found this nifty website called parentsintouch.co.uk which contains lots of worksheets and activities. Not forgetting superkids.com/aweb/tools where you can find a maths worksheet creator.

With a little luck and a lot of patience, I might postpone a nervous breakdown long enough to see Mini-Me attain 13 A*s in her GCSEs at Uber-School (please, Universe!)