15/03/2013 14:10 GMT | Updated 15/05/2013 06:12 BST

Proud to Be a Pushy Parent


I don't mean to show off or anything. I mean, I'm not the sort of parent who is forever boasting about her offspring's achievements on Facebook - you know, 'well done to my little Jamie for getting a distinction in his piano exam!'. But, I'm sure you will all agree that some achievements are of such rarity and magnitude, that they simply must be shared more widely than with Grandma and Grandpa. And, my son's accomplishment this week is really of this calibre; indeed, not to share it more widely would probably be a dereliction of my duty that would deprive the wider world of a significant newsworthy event.

So, brace yourselves - and please, Mums, try to restrain your jealousy. My five year old was on the Top Table this week at lunchtime! I know, I know, I couldn't be more proud! I mean, we are not even half way through the year, and my budding Oxbridge candidate (well, surely, with this sort of achievement on his CV, he must be Oxbridge material?) has already been selected by dinner ladies who have clearly recognised his superior qualities. Apparently, this accolade is awarded for being 'good' at lunchtime.

Now, I must confess that my first reaction when informed about this astounding achievement, was not actually one of unmitigated joy and pride. No, being a typical Pushy Mum, my first reaction was a rather more caustic "why are you only on the Top Table now? Have you not been good up to now?" Naturally, within ten seconds of my gleeful son imparting his big news to me, I had calculated that, as we are in March now, there must have been at least fifteen children already on the top table before him! Suddenly, his stupendous achievement didn't seem quite as worthy.

If you think my reaction is a tad pushy and 'Tiger Mum', let me tell you that I am not the only one. The playground is full of pushy, demanding middle-class mums (and dads) to whom coming in at second is disappointing ('never mind dear - try harder and you could be top next time!') and average is just unacceptable. I overheard one mum being told the great news by her daughter's class teacher that little Chloe had done really well on her maths test with 19 out of 20. The mum immediately shot back with, "What did she get wrong? And what about her English?" Pushy Mums. Don't you just love 'em? I bet the teachers do....

Something else the teachers just don't get about us Pushy Mums is that we don't just want to know what marks our offspring got - we need to know what position they came in the class, nay, in the year (actually, we would prefer to know where they came in the entire country, but accept that this information may be a little harder to obtain). Teachers - and our kids - seem to find this very annoying, but you see, we Pushy Mums are savvy. We know that 'raw' scores are pretty meaningless on their own, as demonstrated by the whopping 72% I achieved in Latin when I was 12. Wow, I thought, given that I had not revised a single conjugation, I must be a natural genius at long-dead languages. I soon learned, however, that 72% was actually bottom of the class (I dropped Latin as soon as I could after that).

Clearly, raw scores are useless. Most educated people know this; this is why we are given those 'percentile' charts for height and weight when our babies are born. Being told your toddler is 90cm means nothing - being told they are on the 65th percentile is much more revealing as this tells you that they are taller than 65% of kids their age. If you also know they are on the 65th percentile for weight, then you know they are perfectly proportioned. If they are on the 90th percentile for weight, you limit the chips.

This is what we Pushy Mums want for academic marks please. It would save all the conversations of 'oh well done, dear, but what did everyone else get?' Apparently, the 'Levels' our kids get these days alongside their raw mark, are supposed to give us that comparative data, but does anyone actually understand these 'Levels'? 3B, 7A, 6C - it's all Latin to me (and you know how I fared at that). Something to do with what the average child should be achieving by the end of their school year... all I want to know is, will it get them into Oxbridge to study medicine, or should I set my sights a little lower?

It's not that I would be devastated if the consumers of my salary did not turn out to be top of the class. After all, I accept that not everyone can be top. This actually makes me differ from many Pushy Mums who reach for the number of the nearest tutor immediately their child showed signs of veering towards the 'average'. Most Pushy Mums don't do 'average' (or, god forbid, lower) and think that a less than perfect exam result can easily be rectified with intense and very costly tuition, or perhaps an assessment for dyslexia ('of course my child is a genius! It's just his dyslexia holding him back!').

So you see, I am not as pushy as some - though I am still smarting that it took six whole months for my little darling to be on that Top Table at lunch! Hmm, I wonder. Do you think he is too young for me to get him a life coach?