Diary of a Primary School Mum: 'Four books a week? Now that isn't funny'

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The Independent Online

The past has a funny way of catching up with you – although "funny" isn't always an accurate description. Take the beginning of Reception. There we were, only halfway through the autumn term, and Miss Perry was already being unfairly maligned. "Why isn't she doing any proper lessons?" I despaired to my husband. "At this rate they won't be literate until they're 20." Formal tuition couldn't start soon enough; euphoria reigned the first time homework was dished out.

That was then. Now, it's all different. The past has caught up with me. Now it isn't funny, because instead of each child getting one reading book a week, Miss Perry has upped it to two. "How on earth am I going to get through that?" I whined to a neighbour on the way home from drop-off the children at school. "Oh yes," my neighbour twigged, "that means you've got FOUR books to get through. I'm so pleased I don't have twins."

If Claire was more like Oliver it wouldn't be such an issue. Oliver reads everything and anything, including (much to my horror) the "F*** the Gap" T-shirt sported recently by our Bulgarian au pair. Hungry to learn (he now thinks "f***" is Bulgarian for "mind" thanks to a quick-witted fib), Oliver rattles through his homework as smooth and fast as a bullet train, and would happily take on Claire's books too, if I'd let him.

"I'm better at reading than Claire," he said smugly, watching his sister who is stuck on page two of The Wild Wooly. I snapped the book shut, led Claire upstairs and locked us into her bedroom. Away from prying ears, surely she'd concentrate better, but each and every one of the 16 times we hit the title in the text, "wild" kept rhyming with build.

"Focus," I gnarled. "You can do this." And she can, but she'd rather draw.

Worse was to come. Make the decision to send two children to the local state primary whilst baby sis Rosie lords it up at a posh, private place, and there are consequences.

Oliver likes to be top dog. He wants to be the best of the best and in 15 years Sir Alan Sugar would probably hire him in a flash. Problem is, Oliver wants to be educated by the best of the best, and senses something's up.

"Why's Rosie not coming to our school?" he asked. "There are loads of schools," I said airily, "and I think the one she's going to go to is perfect for her." "Which one's better, ours or hers?" Words failed me for a while, as I searched for the right ones. "It's not a question of better or worse, they're just different."

Rock bottom, racked with guilt, it was not a pretty picture. Not only do I gnarl, my kids aren't getting equal treatment – the mistakes of generations past are being repeated again and again.

Feeling low and bereft and more lacking in parenting skills than Britney Spears, I resolve to make peace with the world. Claire's only five years old for heaven's sake, lighten up on the homework. Let her draw and sing and never again will these pearly whites gnash with frustration. As for the private school issue, well, some intense soul-searching was going on when the contents of Claire's book bag spilled on to the bottom stair. In the pile was a hand-made card, and inside it was a touching inscription:

Deer Mum

Yoo r the best mum in the woold.