Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'My friend Miranda thinks that it's perfectly normal to play tapes of Keats to her six-year-old while she sleeps'


New studies published in America this week show that a growing number of middle-class mums and dads are guilty of being "hover parents". They buzz around their kids like overbearing helicopters, making sure that the grass doesn't have too much mud in it and that the climbing-frame isn't too high off the ground. These parents do their children's homework for them and then argue with the teacher if they don't get an A grade. Ballet and tennis lessons are started as soon as the child can walk and the under-threes' hum-along- to-Bach course in New York has an 18-month waiting list.

"Sam just loves sea bass and he's simply mad about Mozart," is not an uncommon sentence that is overheard at my son's school gates. Sam is two and a half. It's not that he doesn't like The Tweenies but his parents think that it's better for him to watch a documentary about the plight of the polar bear instead. In French. Every day after school he is ferried from karate to drama and then to football and then back again. He eats bread that is gluten-free and if his raisins aren't organic then the small man from Ocado is threatened with a rolling-pin.

In this country it's been revealed that parents secretly train for the egg-and-spoon race three months before Sports Day and that "homemade cake week" is rather ruined by mums and dads secretly buying the best they can find and then distressing the icing at home. Two mothers who were exasperated by their fellow mums' being competitive over their children's lunch boxes have written The Madness of Modern Families; The Race to Compete with Other Bloody Parents. They worry that children have become "projects" that parents try to "manage", resulting in children who can do nothing for themselves.

And they'd be right - it is a problem. My friend Miranda thinks it's perfectly normal to play tapes of Keats to her six-year-old while she sleeps and her young daughter can order "toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and juice please" in Italian. Her four-year-old son can write his own name (Hercules, if you please) in capitals and small letters and he can tell you what a barn owl likes to eat for his tea in March. Miranda's favourite sort of holiday is a "learning trip" and now she and her husband only take the kids to somewhere with history and a few dozen art galleries rather than just to the beach.

Another boy in my son's class has an "artistic instructor" to help with his colouring-in and his mum makes sure that play dates are cut down to one a week so that the rest of the time can be spent learning about crustaceans in the Natural History Museum. Lucy, a four-year-old who lives two doors down, is already cramming for her interviews at big school and can count to 100 while drawing an outline of the United States. She has been known to argue with her mother about her over-use of the word "exciting" as she thinks it's a bit over the top.

My friends with older kids aren't much better. Their spotty, confused 11-year-olds are taken to Cambridge for the day and while punting on the river their pushy parents tell them that all this could be theirs one day. They're only allowed to watch The OC after they've recited at least two passages from Hamlet.

And I know what you're expecting me to say. That I let my children just be children and that I think they should just be allowed to grow up and become free from my nagging and shoelace help. Au contraire.

I suppose I should have realised I was going to be a little bit over-zealous when at three months pregnant I bought a Winnie the Pooh tape in Mandarin.

Sure, my three-year-old son might not appreciate Wagner's Ring now but there's nothing quite like a bit of preparation. Before you panic, I do let him have five minutes to play with his trains, so long as he's explained the difference between a tram and a monorail.

Now I know one can start too early. My daughter is five months old so I wouldn't dream of using flash cards for at least a couple more weeks. And if she insists on blowing raspberries at the picture of the frog then I'm afraid we'll have to talk.

Yes, I think that she should be allowed to be a baby but shouldn't she be learning at the same time? This is the thing. If they don't need me to tie their shoe-laces when they're 16 then they'll go off, shoes tied, and leave me. They'll find a boy or girl to kiss (I swear I'll kill them) and then they'll grow up to be happy, confident grown-ups.

Now where does that leave me and the other parents who are bringing up nervous, over-stimulated children who will need their mothers to do everything? Yes, you're right. Home alone. So, while I can create two clingy, excitable children to hang around my legs for ever I'll carry on. Sorry, have to go. That'll be the banjo tutor at the door.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Communications Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 6-month part-time contract (24 hours a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific