I used to think that I’ve left my school days behind me. That I’ve moved on. I’m not that girl anymore.
Today I realised just how wrong I am.
I’m awkward around new people regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. I either get stiff and forget how to breathe, or I go a bit ridiculous and loud to over compensate. Because of this, when the school gate mums chat to me and my tongue grows three times as big and I can feel my toes sweating, I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
However, one of the mums terrifies me more than the others, and I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why. Today I worked it out. She’s one of the cool kids.
We were talking about the homework. Last week the task was to decorate a hedgehog as they were learning about Autumn. Miss Rose and I took this seriously. We went on a walk with a wicker basket to gather “autumnal things” and came home with assorted leaves, acorns and sycamore seeds. We mixed glue and she busily stuck them down whilst I guided her to keep within the lines. Then we liberally applied glitter because… well… why wouldn’t you?
The end result was spectacular and she was thrilled. As was I. We had created something worthy of handing in.
The cool mum didn’t bother doing it.
The other task from school is that you write what educational activities they do at home.
I wrote about playing animal, vegetable or mineral with her picture blocks. I described how she is dictating the words to her first novel as I transcribe them. I reported that she is learning the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees and we point them out on our walk to school.
The cool mum didn’t bother doing that either.
“Oh,” I said, shifting my feet awkwardly.
She explained he spends all that time in school to learn, she’s not going to do homework.
“Oh,” I said again, picking my thumb nail.
The thing is I have sympathy with that. They do spend a lot of time learning in school, and they’re so young at just three or four years old. I don’t believe in letting children getting bogged down with work and the pressure of education. Home should be home where they can play and rest and relax, indeed in some of the highest educationally achieving countries they don’t start education until much later in life, around six or seven years old.
I have sympathy with it. But I wouldn’t do it.
You’ve got to have a certain amount of chutz pah to “not bother” doing the homework. A certain amount of cool. I do not have that chutz pah. I have even less cool. What I have is a fear of authority figures. A need to conform. A terror of teachers. And a long history of being a nerd.
Fortunately for me, Rose is showing signs of nerdliness being firmly in her future. She loves her homework. She loves learning. She loves doing tasks and challenges and is very proud and insistent about doing her homework.
If she resisted? Would I panic? Would I force her? At three years of age, would it be fair? Should I back off?
I don’t believe learning shouldn’t happen at home. I’ve always gone to great lengths to try and educate her at home. I encourage her to ask questions and get involved in tasks from cooking dinner (this evening she joyfully mixed her omelette mixture), to looking after the animals (she helps feed and clean the guineapigs). We look at books, practice new words, talk about why rain falls and why paint dries. I wouldn’t want to just say no you don’t have to learn things if you don’t want to.
Am I pressure cooking her little brain by cramming so much into it that she feels the pressure to perform that could result in her losing the plot at ten years old and running off to join the circus?
Should I take a leaf out of cool mums book and just not bother?
Would she be happier? Would I?
If she is naturally nerdy like myself then probably not…
When I’m not looking for reasons to be hard on myself I remember that she has lots of down time. She spent an hour in the bath this morning playing with her zoo animals in the bubbles. She spent two hours on the sofa after school snuggled down under a blanket with me and her baby sister watching Peter Rabbit. She gets to chill. I’m not a horrible pushy no rest allowed mum.
But I’m also not a cool mum. I wasn’t a cool child. I wasn’t one of the popular kids and I guess if Rose is going to obsess over making sure her homework is done and done right, and think that animal, vegetable or mineral is actually a fun game, then she’s not going to be cool either.
Cool mum at the school gates is confident and cool, doesn’t bother doing homework, talks about how often her little boy says “fuck off”, and absolutely terrifies me. I am awkward, always do the homework, get upset when Rose tells me I’m not her best friend anymore, and terrify nobody. And yet we seem to end up chatting quite regularly. Well she chats, I mumble agreements and nod a lot.
In the words of Mika and Ariana Grande; “It’s not about who you are or your fancy car, you’re only ever who you were.”
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!