My worst parent - Stretched to breaking point

4th June 2010 at 01:00

My problems with Ms Competitive Parent began when she requested a breakfast meeting to discuss her daughter Oriana's "severe giftedness". Ms CP arrived with a clack of kitten heels, holding her BlackBerry so that she could minute our discussions, and announced that she wanted advice on extra-curricular activities.

She spread out a multicoloured timetable, showing her child's life organised like a minor military campaign. On top of putting in a full school week, Oriana already had piano lessons, music practice, swimming, dancing, private maths tuition and French lessons. She still needed stretching though, thought Mum. Did I think it would be more beneficial for her to take up a second instrument or another language?

Oriana was four years old and had begun her school career exactly one week ago. I tentatively explained (as Ms CP typed) that perhaps she was already doing enough as young children need time to reflect, play, relax - "to be a child" was my subtext.

Throughout the term, Oriana's junk-modelling homework looked architect built, a make-up artist painted her face for World Book Day, and her homemade cake stall was exceptional.

Don't get me wrong: I encourage parents to support their offspring's school careers, but this usually means frantically scribbling "did well" in the reading record once a week.

Ms CP was running her child's life like the FTSE 100 company she used to work for. Oriana should and must succeed. By this point Ms CP was also terrorising the PTA with her three-page agendas.

Months later, Ms CP approached me again. Oriana was stressed. Would I recommend a counsellor or play therapy? In despair, I meekly asked: "Have you considered CBeebies?"

The writer is a teacher in Cambridgeshire.

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