It’s 7.30pm on a Sunday night and as you smugly tuck your 6 year old into bed, already thinking about wine and sofa, she gazes in to your eyes and utters the words: Mummy, I haven’t done my homework…and with that, your whole world momentarily collapses. In an instant, you turn from calm and happy mummy, into some kind of demented freak, who is now rummaging around in a book bag in the dark, frantically pulling out crumpled spelling sheets, party invites from three months ago and then, yes there it is: the homework. Within seconds you have dragged your bewildered child out of bed and you have her scribbling a picture of a tree on a bit of paper, while you run outside searching for a leaf to sellotape on. And you do it because this will better her chances of success. This homework is essential for her to pass the 11+. Without that picture of a fucking tree, she will not succeed in life!
So now, to add to the parents’ woe, Ofsted have praised an initiative that grades parents from A to D on the support they give their children. You know that time your kid wasn’t in the school play, so you gave it a body swerve? That will get you a D. Turn up at parent’s evenings and you’ll earn yourself an applaudable A, but fail to get to the after school football match and you could slide down to a C. If you are not deemed to be pulling your weight, perhaps you didn’t bake a cake for the last school fair, you may even be called into the head teacher’s office.
Oh yes, a round of applause for the parents who have the most time! Bravo you A stars, go to the top of the class. Meanwhile, others will just hover around a D for the entire year because they work full time and may have lots of kids. Go on – make them feel even more shit about their parenting skills, because lord knows, I’ll bet they really don’t already feel crap enough. I used to feel like an A grader when I managed to get 4 packed lunches ready and the kids out to school with their shoes on – I gave myself bonus points for coats. Now parents may be measured on a school’s criteria.
Most parents don’t have the time or the mental energy for this! Can’t they see that we are all trying our best? “You must try harder, Mrs Longhurst”. Holy crap, I’m not sure I can. I can’t possibly compete with the PTA A listers. I’ve reached capacity and if you push me any further I’m going to have to rebel. What then? Detention? Prepare to explain yourself to the head.
So what is the point? As parents we do our best. We may need some encouragement and the occasional nudge, but we are not kids. We have done our time at being marked at school and I only need one voice telling me every day that, “I must try harder” and that’s my own.