Deborah Ross: Let's hear it for the 'Pathetic Mother'

If you ask me...
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The Independent Online

I you ask me, it is time to hear it for The Pathetic Mother, who might not have realised how pathetic she was until reading about the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, a Chinese-American mother who banned her children from sleepovers, play-dates, watching TV, owning pets, and not being the top student in any subject other than drama or gym.

The Pathetic Mother knew she was a pathetic mother when she read this list and thought: "If only my child were good at gym, it would be something, no? But, alas, I can't even get the dolt to put in extra time at the monkey bars."

The Pathetic Mother has many defining characteristics. The Pathetic Mother goes through the TV listings with her children at the start of every week, allowing them to pick a programme a day they truly want to watch, writes out a list, attaches it to the fridge, and then ignores it because the alternative might be having to play Ludo, which is so boring she always wishes she were dead. The Pathetic Mother pays for a full term of recorder lessons then allows her child to attend only the once because she can't think of a decent enough response to the protest: "Mum, you promised me a world of musical delight, but it's only a stick with a hole in it." The Pathetic Mother caves in to her children's demand for a pet, although at least has the good sense to direct them towards Sea Monkeys, which can be tipped down the toilet once the children realise that they grow into slimy flecks and not little pirates with cutlasses, as shown on the box.

The Pathetic Mother recognises that sleepovers are evil but doesn't have the heart to ban them on the grounds that, if the children return ashen-faced and good-for-nothing what are the chances they'll insist on a game of Ludo or, worse, Monopoly, which goes on for five lifetimes and an eternity? Nil, she'd have thought. The Pathetic Mother loves her children but when she witnesses them falling off the monkey bars yet again can't help but think: "Gifted? Probably not. Now, where's that ambulance. Ideally, it would be nice to get back in time for Bargain Hunt." And while Pathetic Mother is courteous to Tiger Mother – you are about to ferry them to extra, extra, extra maths, you say; interesting – she would quite like to lay her out all the same. If you have never felt similarly, do ask yourself this: "Am I pathetic enough?" We don't just accept anybody, you know.

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