What keeps me awake at night - Could I, too, become a nightmare parent?

18th October 2013 at 01:00

Children keep me awake at night. One child, in fact. Not a child who I teach at school, but the unborn one who insists on kicking my wife's bladder at 4am every morning.

It's not the early-morning jolt that keeps me wide-eyed, though. It's the realisation, after years of making sweeping generalisations and judgements as I gazed knowingly across the desk during parents' evenings, that I will now be crossing over to the other side of the table.

Of course, I am not the first to make this journey. And, as teachers, we all make the same promises before our first child is born: I will never tell a teacher how "talented" my child is compared with all the others; I won't call up the school leader if my child is dropped from a sports team; I won't insist that my child always be in the top sets because of a test they took at the age of 3 that proved they were mathematically gifted; and I won't email the head of year every three days because I haven't got anything better to do.

What worries me is that my fellow teachers seem to have broken these promises without exception. And when I ask for advice about keeping the pledges - in an attempt to learn from their failure to do so - they instead provide me with unrelated information that merely adds to my rising panic.

The new parents beam with joy in their eyes, but bags under them. They tell me where to buy Medela Swing breast pumps, My Brest Friend pillows and Grobags. I have no idea what these are.

Those with more experience offer insights into why they send their children to our school, or to another. Those older still hark back to their younger parenting days: one senior staff member told me to "make the most of the first 12 years because, after that, they will get their revenge".

None of them has told me how to avoid becoming the parent we all dread. And so in my insomnia, I strive for a strategy.

I have decided that, if I ever get the urge to be the parent I hate, I will just make my wife be that person for me. I'm sure that will fix everything ...

The writer teaches at a secondary school in the south-east of England.

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