PARENTS

Boasting Mums: I Couldn't Care Less About Your Kids' Brilliance

07/05/2012 20:43 | Updated 22 May 2015

boasting mumsHow far would you go to check out your children's academic progress or boast about it?

A friend of mine was once caught sneaking a peek at other pupils' reading diaries, snaffled from their book bags in a primary school cloakroom.

She was hauled in front of the headteacher and made to explain herself.

"I wanted to see how my daughter's reading level compared," she told her bewildered inquisitor.

That came about six years after she apologised for her daughter's 'terrible' writing on a letter she showed me. My daughters hadn't yet picked up a pencil. To be honest, it looked as if she'd scrawled the letter herself, with a shaky left hand.

Her toddler daughter, listening to every word, looked a little perplexed.

I say friend, I haven't seen her much since. Her daughter was last heard of passing a selective school's entrance exam with flying colours. And sitting by herself on the hour-long bus ride there and back.

When I was a child, I hated my parents talking about me to other people, especially if I happened to be in the same room. Thankfully they didn't too often. They could see my cheeks flush if they attempted to start a conversation in some shop or café, or our living room, about what I'd been up to – good or bad.

At least my embarrassment was rare.

In those days, it seemed to me, bragging about your children's achievements wasn't that popular a past time. More modest people considered it a real 'no-no'. I liked it that way.

So, if another parent was to regale us with tales of how extraordinarily clever or talented their children were, me and my mum would exchange looks that said: "Leave it out, we know she's right one. Someone's telling you porkies."

At family parties, we joked that each of my cousins, if my aunties were to be believed , were destined to run the country, or run a mile in a record breaking time - or perhaps both. That would be after they'd found a cure for the common cold. Such was their academic, athletic or just general all round prowess and genius.

"What's so wrong with just being happy?" My mum would say to me later. "Just do your best Sweetheart, that's all you can do."

Boy, things have changed. You can't take a trip to the school gates or disco, a swimming pool, dance club or Brownies without hearing all about how outstanding all the other kids are.

Showing off about your children seems to have become the norm. If it was an Olympic sport, I know plenty of potential gold medallists.

Last week, while I was waiting with my daughters for their keyboard lesson, we chatted about exams.

"How did you do in your Grade One?" another mum waiting with us interrupted to ask my daughter.

"Um fine," she replied, looking at the floor.

"Never mind, perhaps you can improve on that next time," chirruped the woman, assuming my daughter's whispered "fine" really meant "so awful I can't bear it."

Then she shared her children's recent results with us.

The three of us smiled and made suitably encouraging comments before an awkward silence took hold.

"Why do other people think my results are any of their business?" my daughter asked later.

I said the same as my mum before me:

"Ignore them. Just do your best Sweetheart, that's all you can do."

Everywhere we go mums want to confide in me how remarkable their children are, how gifted, kooky or well just brilliant - obviously the most special children to have walked the earth.

Of course it's lovely that they are so proud of their offspring.

But am I really so out of step to not want to join in this boasting?

Helen, mum to Rhona, four, and Ellie, eight, says: "I feel sorry for mums who seem to want to live their lives through their children; they can't wait to tell you about their latest achievement. I'd never want to criticise anyone for being proud of their family but sometimes things go too far. It's not as if our children have to go out in the world or get a job next week. Just relax people!"

I'm with Helen. What's so wrong with being average anyway? Some of the supposedly brightest and most academically gifted people I've known have had appallingly low emotional intelligence – which is what really matters.

Sure they can put us all to shame when it comes to passing exams, but would you want to spend more time with them than you had to? No thanks. And that's why aged just 11, the daughter of a mum who sees nothing wrong with rifling through other children's bags to see if she's ahead of them, finds herself alone on a school bus.

So long as my daughters are happy, loved and considerate, that will do for me.

Having twins has added to how uncomfortable I feel confronted by boastful mothers.

I have already spent a lot of hours assuring my daughters that life isn't a competition. Especially when they're disappointed at not reaching the heady heights of one mark higher in a test like their sister.

Having two children who - though born just 15 minutes apart - have developed at different rates and got varying results in schoolwork means I appreciate all kids are individuals and should not be judged or compared against each other.

Right from the days when one walked on the eve of her first birthday and her sister pulled herself up on her feet four months later, I could see there was no point stressing.

I just love my kids the best I can, whatever grades they get and I hope the next time a stranger decides to ask me what those grades are, I'll find the voice to say:

"It's none of your business."

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