A glance at my calendar today gave rise to a startling revelation. This time next week my eldest daughter will have her first exam. The would-be tiger mother in me is pacing frantically in its cage, searching for a way out.
This could be my first parenting triumph. I'm up for the challenge.
Ellie's 'exam' is her 3 ½ year health review. The helpful pamphlet supplied by the nurse indicates a focus on "...growth, development, nutrition, parenting, safety, oral health and communication".
I've had my spies out there. I've discovered that as well as the customary weighing and measuring, counting of digits and discussion of all things wee and poo, she will be asked to draw a picture, count to twenty and recite the alphabet.
Dammit! Somewhere along the way I dropped the ball. A tiger mother would have started preparing for this milestone prior to conception, equipping her discerning ovum with a teeny tiny clipboard and strict instructions to short-list the sperm as to their artistic credentials and grasp of literacy and numeracy. The act of conception would have been a precision-planned operation informed by feng shui and astrology. There should have been a jade plant on the doorstep instead of a dead cricket and a mouldy gumboot.
My youngest child's moment of conception was an unanticipated consequence of a fumbling quickie in the linen closet during an intermission in the ironing. Happily, I also found the hot water bottle stopper I mislaid in 2009. Why the linen closet? Because the marital bed was added to her big sister's burgeoning property portfolio when her bed disappeared under a tsunami of toys, clothes and miscellaneous pilfered kitchen implements.
The tiger mother's pregnancy would have been a 39 week litany of yoga, positive mantras, quinoa, and kale. Lots of kale. Her foetus would have developed to a soundtrack of classical music. Mine was startled into existence by a scratched ACDC album played incessantly by an unhinged mother running late for absolutely everything.
The tiger mother's birth plan would have envisaged a string quartet in the delivery suite, her newborn greeted by alphabet flashcards, a tri-lingual maths tutor and a full timetable of scheduled socialisation. Meanwhile, I was still at home packing lunch boxes and ironing shirts in a state of advanced dilation and due date denial.
I've got a lot of catching up to do. A lot of slack parenting to undo. Here's my plan of attack, focusing on the big ticket items first:
Had I anticipated the importance of the alphabet to her development I would have swapped the dust- encrusted cobweb and mummified spider on the back of the toilet door with an educational poster. On second thought, that door is never closed. My progeny's toilet habits are on display for all to see, accompanied by a running commentary as to frequency, consistency, colour and odour. Fail.
A move to Hawaii (with its helpfully abridged 18 letter alphabet) is out of the question so I'll improvise with a marathon screening of back-to-back episodes of Sesame Street. Mental note: Feign a heart attack half way through to camouflage the Americanised 'zee' with an impromptu medical emergency. Done.
The tiger mother's cub would charm with calculus and confound with algebra whereas Ellie's comprehension of 'one' lolly is two handfuls, two pocketfuls and all that can be crammed in her mouth. Division is a concept applicable only to how much sharing she must do applied to any given cake. Again, that's something we're going to have to remedy...and some additional brushing, flossing and a couple of squirts from a high pressure cleaner.
Draw a picture? At first blush, an innocent task. In reality, the most challenging requirement. An artistic temperament must be cultivated in the space of a weekend. The solution lies in a field trip to a modern art space and cultural hub of unrivalled vision... the railway station. Sure, there may be some exposure to the more dubious nouns and verbs of the English language (both written and audible), but it will be an unparalleled tutorial in colour, composition, calligraphy and...crime.
As for the other points, I can tick them off with confidence. Safety? She yells at me occasionally. Dr Google assures me that in order to make that kind of noise you generally have to be breathing. Nutrition? She eats food. Occasionally it's supplemented with fingernails, boogers and play dough, but hey, she's getting some variety.
Oral health? I've previously been on the receiving end of those teeth. Development? She does have bigger feet now than last year. As for 'parenting', I'm not sure how she'll score having avoided her babysitting services to date. I'll just pass her her baby sister and see how she goes with the next nappy change. Of course, she's had the best role model...