Diary Of A Primay School Mum: 'Can a pushy parent be as bad as a spoilt child?'

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The Independent Online

I've heard it said that the definition of genius is a pushy mummy boasting about her average child. So Claire, 5, having recently finished her first book, must be taken with a pinch of salt. She hasn't finished reading her first book, you understand. She has finished writing it, illustrating it and binding it.

Checking out the world record, it appears that so far, the youngest person ever to be published is a four-year-old girl from Washington whose work of fiction, How the World Began, hit stores in 1964. Granted, Claire's a few months older, but that doesn't preclude her from being the record-holder for youngest British person to be published. And I bet the other upstart wasn't her own illustrator, too.

Miss Perry wanted to ensure that my child's artistic genius was fully understood. "You must check in Claire's bag," she directed me at pick-up time, "because what she's created this afternoon is really excellent for someone of her age. A whole book, with pages and everything, and I had nothing to do with it."

Claire's masterpiece is fittingly entitled Princesses, and while the text is a bit sparse and with the odd typo, the pictures of princesses and castles and princes on horseback more than make up for it.

The twins' shelves are overflowing with children's fiction, and rummaging through some of the spines it appears that Macmillan, Orchard and Puffin are all big hitters in this field. On-line, seeking out some phone numbers, dreams of Claire being the youngest guest on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross; heir apparent to Zadie Smith; and bankroller of our other daughter's private-school fees, are thwarted by a crisis of conscience. The newspapers have been full of stories about spoilt pupils becoming a nightmare for schools to discipline. Can a parent being pushy be equally destructive?

I ask my best friend, who is a primary school teacher. "Spoiling is much worse than being pushy," she says, "but being pushy isn't good either. I see it all the time. Some parents barely see their kids because they sign them up for every after- school club going. And I've even had mums accusing me of not giving their four- year-olds enough homework. How ridiculous is that? I mean, there's plenty of time for pressure later."

I let the subject lie and the next morning, as I'm reading the newspaper over breakfast, Oliver spots a picture of George Bush. It's not world politics that grab my son's attention – it's the giant Easter bunny the President of America is cuddling. "I want that," he says. My initial thought is, if my boy wants that toy, why not pen a request to the White House? Thankfully, enlightenment is close behind. Not only do I not want a 6ft bunny in the house, spoiling my children is now taboo.

Being pushy, though, is less clear-cut. If Claire got published at the age of five, how great would that look on her CV? If Claire got published at the age of five, she could dine out on it for the rest of her life. If Claire got published at the age of five, the proceeds could help where Gordon Brown has failed.

Weeks ago, the twins sent a letter to 10 Downing Street, scrounging funds for a climbing frame or two for their school playground. The Prime Minister passed the buck to Ed Balls, but has the Children's Minister since been in touch? No.

To hell with it, sometimes being pushy is the only way. I pick up the phone and dial. "Hello, is that Orchard? Oh, hi there, could you put me through to editorial for children's books please?"

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