When I had children, I swore to myself that I would never become a ‘pushy parent.’ I remember as a teenager my younger brother joining a football team. My Mum diligently took him to training and to matches every week. The training she didn’t mind, but she came to dread the matches. She watched in horror at the sideline as she heard some of the other parents yell and scream at their nine year old kids that they weren’t playing anywhere near well enough to satisfy their own repressed and long-held yearnings for glory. When my brother quit the team, my Mum breathed a sigh of relief.
Years later as I helping out at an art project in my local art gallery. The workshop was full of eight to ten year olds who, for the most part, spent a great day looking at the portraits in the gallery and then making their own self-portrait. There was one boy who was obviously a very talented young artist. His drawing was amazing and far surpassed anything else any of the other children produced. However, his mother didn’t think so. She balled him out in front of the rest of the group for the ‘terrible nose’ he had drawn himself. He was ten years old. At the end of the day, all of the children left tightly clutching their precious drawings and, I imagine, these were given pride of place at home. All that was, except this young man. His drawing was left behind, presumably as it was not of a fitting standard to grace his mother’s wall.
My girls have recently started gymnastics classes. I pick them up from school on a Tuesday, rush home, throw them into the car and drive there. The first time we went, they changed for their class at home and we barely made it there on time due to the traffic. Leaving for gymnastics ten minutes earlier means we avoid this but, it also means, we arrive far too early. Funny how this happens, isn’t it? I leave my house at 3.50pm and I arrive at the local leisure centre at 4pm. Leave my house at 4pm and we screech into the car park and swerve ‘Sweeny’ style into a parking bay at 4.30pm. So, I chose to do the former as it’s much less stressful. This means my girls are changed and ready for class a full fifteen minutes before the need to. At least, they would be if they got changed in a timely and orderly fashion.
However, timely and orderly are not words that usually apply to five year olds. Mine are no exception. Getting changed for gymnastics means taking five minutes just to take off your school jumper and then hopping about on one foot or running around in circles for no apparent reason. I don’t mind this. After all, we’ve thirty minutes to kill so if they want to run around like lunatics, so be it. It beats standing around in a corridor waiting for the class to start as far as I’m concerned. However, judging by the look one of the other mothers gave me this week, it seems not all share my approach to parenting.
My girls were running around in circles in various states of undress, when another mum and her daughter entered the changing room. Her daughter is a year or two older than mine, and smiled and laughed at their antics. Her mother, however, was far from impressed. She gave her daughter a look which clearly said, “Don’t even think about joining in that unruly behaviour with those out of control delinquent children.” The little girl sat down and began to get changed in a very timely and orderly fashion. Except, she was about six or seven years old and the sight of other children having a whale of a time was too much for her to continue in this very unnatural way. So instead of getting changed in a manner that her mother thought was befitting a child, she kept stopping and watching my girls. This enraged Attila the Mum. She squared up her shoulders, fixed me with another glare and yelled at her daughter, “Will you concentrate? You are not going to get any more gymnastics badges if you don’t concentrate on what you are doing!”
I put my head down, not in shame but to suppress an almighty giggle that threatened to rise up and burst from my mouth. I mean really, I don’t know much about gymnastics but I’m sure they don’t test their proficiency on getting dressed. It was also twenty minutes before the class started so what was all the fuss about? Surely, her daughter taking an extra five minutes to get changed was better than standing in the corridor. Maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood this whole gymnastics thing and I need to be installing some kind of discipline in my children. Maybe it’s not supposed to be fun. Perhaps it is all about getting those precious badges. Maybe this mum just liked standing in corridors and couldn’t wait to do so because as soon as her daughter was ready she frogmarched her out of the changing room, throwing me another icy stare as the door banged behind her. I guess I’m not going to win ‘gymnastics mum of the year’ anytime soon.