I made the mistake of asking Jimmy’s new teacher about his learning. She cornered me eagerly for 20 minutes - it felt longer - and I learnt a great deal about teaching methods. I can’t remember a thing now.
As the lecture progressed, I felt my smile fix like adhesive; my eyes began to water. I remember trying to say something intelligent relating to the topic I suddenly wanted to avoid. I just wanted to know whether Jimmy was doing all right. I just wanted to escape.
Unfortunately, this earnest teacher is getting rather cross with the children. She has been so planned, so prepared and well-educated in educational theory and they’re not playing ball. It’s not that they are ASBO prodigies. I hope. They are, quite simply, children. They fidget, loose concentration and laugh uncontrollably at the mention of pooh. It just ain’t text-book. It’s childhood.
And that leads me seamlessly into the topic of ‘Tiger Mums’. According to the writer, Amy Chau, Chinese mums are best because they insist on learning over play - they ban frivolity in childhood. As a result their children are high achievers whilst Western kids roll around on sofas stuffing their gobs with junk and playing mindless games on consoles made-in-China.
I usually find high achievers outstandingly dull. They know everything except jokes. I don’t want Jimmy to turn out like that! As a ‘Kitten Mum’, by name and nature, I shall insist on him playing truant and Mario more often…
Jimmy – an only child - has often asked for a little brother or a puppy. I’ve suggested a goldfish.
I do feel for Jimmy. He needs the company of small creatures. Alas, he doesn’t have siblings; his cousins live in Australia; our friends have shown little consideration in having children; we’re not having another baby and I’m scared of dogs.
Jimmy has some great friends at school, it’s true, and he would have them over all the time if he could but they all belong to other families who have busy lives like us.
When we have a family get together or friends around, Jimmy is the only child. All the grown-ups chat away about their lives and plans and the most attention Jimmy gets is a lesson in manners (‘wait a minute’, ‘I’m talking’, ‘let me finish’…) whilst I’m given helpful lectures in developmental psychology about how to bring up kids so they don’t interrupt. I’m amazed at the wisdom of people without children in childrearing.
But, it is not all despair. School is a wonderful source for friends as I’ve said. We have a few little mates for Jimmy around some corner. I arrange play-dates, lots of activities to attend and a lesbian mother’s group. And hey, there are plenty of pit-bulls roaming the streets of London for Jimmy to play with. What’s more, when we do get to Australia, Jimmy is surrounded by dozens of cousins under the age of ten (yes, even breeding is a competitive sport Down Under).
Besides, I have given in over the pet ban (well, he has just had a seventh birthday) and now he has a crazed, black kitten. He adores her. She squeaks all day and attacks my legs - I think I have post-feline-depression.
I awoke this morning to the World Service bleating BBC beep beep beep in my ear – not always the best way to wake up, as it proved, with the usual round up of world torture and misery. Apparently we can all look forward to a documentary this evening called something like The Worst Country in the World to Be Gay. And that’s Uganda. I listened reluctantly to a few vox pops along the lines of ‘I think they should be killed’ from the caring citizens of Uganda before I turned off and made a note not to watch Channel 4 tonight unless it’s Brothers & Sisters or Glee. And before you judge my taste on the latter as many do, can I just say: it’s the subtext!
For a few moments I wondered who would watch such a documentary except self-flagellating gays or mean Christians. I felt for the brave lesbians and gays in Uganda who cannot switch-off. I remembered David Kato. I wanted to text everyone I know who thinks being gay is ‘no longer an issue’ (i.e. homophobia is our own hang-up) and suggest they tune in.
But, my thoughts were interrupted by a thud from Jimmy’s bedroom as he ‘jumped-up’ (he doesn’t just ‘wake-up’ you see) and bounced into our bedroom, over our bed and nestled between his two mums for a ‘mummy sandwich’.
And then the day began. Jimmy ran downstairs to happily torment the kitten before school. I ran after him in the same vein.
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