As is probably obvious to those of you who’ve read a few of my parenting posts, the best way of summing up my “style” is probably “Making it up as I go along.” And I’m going to make the basic assumption that most parents do this. Nobody seriously has time for parenting books when they’re struggling to have enough clean small-boy pants for the morning and remember who’s picking him up later on.
So I basically wing it. But it’s like a swan. On the surface of it is an “I’m sure it’ll be fine” flapping about (people forget that swans flap), while underneath it all are the paddling feet of “Oh my God, I totally did that wrong.”
Beyond being afraid of the obvious ones, like the fear of turning R miserable, arrogant, unfeeling, psychotic, TV addicted, unhealthy, smarmy, angry, spoilt or so nerdy that nobody can talk to him, I have The Fear. It’s the Cambridge Mummy fear, and it’s always there under every interaction.
The trouble is, I see pushy parenting whenever I go out in this fine city of ours. Yesterday, I actually also saw a mum sitting outside Starbucks with her two-year-old, smoking whilst on the phone, and handing him rizla papers to play with. So I’m not saying pushiness is the worst.
However, when Horatio or Pandora is being put forward as some kind of a poetic genius to the store assistants of John Lewis, it makes me cringe first – and then wonder if I’m unknowingly as bad afterwards.
So here is my self-made guide on avoiding being a pushy Cambridge mummy. And remember, it doesn’t relate to anyone I actually know. I promise.
- Don’t name your child Horatio or Pandora.
- If too late for no. 1, work very hard on a nickname that sticks.
- Never complain that your child is not on the more difficult reading books like some of the children, because he “Concentrates better if he’s stretched” and needs moving up.
- Never compliment your child’s genius to another parent unless said parent is related to you and dotes on your child as much as you do (and note here, even if they are, they probably don’t…)
- If your child is complimented by another parent, say something rude about them to take away from the compliment. Avoid doing this loudly enough for the child to hear. (This is my method, and it seems to work well. Other answers on a postcard.)
- Don’t let your five-year-old add “apogee” to their list of tricky words for school. (OK, this was my bad. But it’s off Bedknobs and Broomsticks, so I’ve decided it’s allowed.)
- Never google things like “What to do if my child is a genius” whilst in Starbucks and your laptop is in full view, and your child is at that point stabbing the table with a bent straw and screeching that it’s broken.
- Don’t tell them about Oxford, Cambridge and Mensa when they are four.
- Don’t dress them in a suit to look round their reception class.
- Don’t decide that they have a gluten intolerance just because Gwyneth Paltrow’s children apparently have one.
- Never tell other parents that you don’t do playing at the park, you do edu-play.
- Don’t snigger when your child puts down an adult and is actually right. (I am useless at this one. Absolutely useless.)
- Don’t buy all their clothes from Joules.
- Don’t take them around Waitrose and declaim at all the high GI food they should be avoiding.
- Don’t take them to more than one yoga class in a week.
- Don’t insist that they count to twenty out loud (aged three) in front of your group of friends for a seriously tenuous reason based on the number of biscuits they dropped.
- Avoid encouraging them to name their dolls after Salinger characters.
- Don’t declare to everyone who will listen that your child has only ever enjoyed classical music.
- Put away the rubix cube.