Thursday 8 November 2012

Mummy on the Edge - Families Magazine Nov/ Dec 2012

“Mummy, look!” gasped Mini-Me as she pointed to the pavement outside our house. It was Thursday morning and we were about to say our goodbyes before she went to her friend's house to go to school. I was all packed and excited about my impending gourmet weekend away.

“#@$!” I exclaimed, recoiling in horror. It was a fox lying on the ground. Dead. Open eyed. I momentarily considered what the universe meant by this portent, before taking a picture of it on my gadget and zooming to the airport to get on a plane to Biarritz. My friend kindly volunteered to phone the council and get it taken care of so that I didn't have to face a rotting corpse upon my return.

This was our first 3 nights apart from each other since Mini-Me went away with the school earlier in the year for two nights and missed me very much. I'm thinking we need increased practice (more trips for me!) because she will be going away for a week with the school again next year. My weekend away was a food-themed celebration of the 40th Birthday of Ani, one of my oldest friends whom I have known since we were 7 – three years younger than Mini-Me is now. It got me thinking about how wonderful it would be for her if she is able to keep in touch with her friends for the rest of her life too (-especially ones that will make her life glamorous by necessitating trips abroad and who run their own organic spice companies and will cook elaborate and mouthwatering meals for her too; ones that work in fashion and regularly drop bags of clothing on her coffee table; not to mention ones that will happily organise the removal of dead animals from outside her house when she is on glamorous trips abroad...) Strong friendships are so incredibly important in life and the older I get, the more I believe this to be true.

It is something I'm thinking about a lot now, when considering which schools to put down on Mini-Me's secondary school application. A lot of time during my break away was spent dissecting Mini-Me's secondary school prospects. I know I have been going on about it since the last issue of Families NW, but having finally received the results of the 11-plus test our munchkins were put through, and with the application deadline looming, the decision, whilst becoming a bit clearer, hasn't got much easier or less weighty.

Whilst getting into a good school that's a bit far away might be an achievement, what about the sacrifice of not having a network of friends living nearby? Does a social life matter less once you are in a school that is hardcore results-driven? And will it affect their self-esteem if your kid's background is a bit less, shall we say, conventional than her peers? I just don't know. One theory I have heard reapeated over the past month, from people who have been through the whole process and also from parents posting on the excellent forum is that your child will get into the school that is right for them and if they want to work hard they will do well wherever they are. This is very comforting. After all, we all want what is best for our children; personally, I want to give Mini-Me the chances that I never had. But I question whether my desires for her are motivated by my own vanity or by what's the best for her specific abilities and personality. Like many parents out there, I have some long hard thinking to do...

Gosh, when I was ten, there was none of this to think about. Me and Ani and Chanda (uber fashion friend) were busy planning seriously uninformative school assemblies and making up dances in the playground. My biggest anxiety was born of a Diwali assembly when the sari I had shambolically wrapped around me started to unfurl and entangle itself around the shrine about which we were dancing and I chose the moment when my big butt was facing the school to bend over and start unravelling it. I never lived it down but have embraced it now as a treasured memory. Anyway, my point is that it was a given that I would just go to the local high school and me and my friends did okay. I devoured Smash Hits fortnightly and that turned me into a writer. Sorta.

Mini-Me on the other hand has to think about secondary schools, not to mention about a rotting dead fox – which was STILL there when I came back on Sunday!

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

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