01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: The pushy parent - to push or not to push? 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The pushy parent - to push or not to push?

After years of standing in the background, leaving my poor preciouses to fend for themselves, watching them passed over for teams and awards (OK, they were only at Kindergarten!), I feel myself morphing into a pushy parent.

1. I signed my eldest (aged 9) up for extra maths (the dreaded Kumon) in August and she is still doing it! I swore that these were depths that I would never sink to, but when I asked her what number comes after 199 and she blanked, I panicked!

We now fight every day about doing her maths sheet. My husband and I say 'Ku Mon' coaxingly- (come on) ha ha. Now our 9 year old's 4 year old sister is driving her nuts too, piping up on a regular basis; 'have you done your maths yet?'. The eldest goes off like a rocket.

Plus, My eldest daughter asks, why is the Kumon logo a SAD face! Not smiling? She has also used expressions like 'child labour' of late (she studied the Victorians last term).

2. The eldest also has additional homework that I can nag her about. It sometimes requires my involvement with researching things on the Internet or helping her carry out simple science experiments. When I tell my daughter to write the results down, she rolls her eyes and says, 'Mum, I don't HAVE to. I'll just remember, OK!'

3. She also has piano practice that I nag her about (since the heavy nagging started she has got slightly better - she even migrated onto 'Piano Time book 2' yesterday after 3 years of playing tunes like 'She'll be coming round the mountain.' She says the lessons are 'good' and is getting big shiny stars in her workbook for the first time.

4. I signed the middle daughter up to do extra tennis once a week, even though it is her first term in a new school and she has to play tennis with 3 children who are all in the year above her. The reason I did this was because she showed a little bit of aptitude at the summer tennis camp (see! I am beyond help!). Now I go to school early on Mondays, just to point the middle daughter back to the locker room to find her tennis racket, then escort her to the tennis court on time - otherwise she would never make it as she is in a dreamworld and basically exhausted from adjusting to her new school.

5. I also signed the middle daughter up for drum lessons. (I know, I know.... nuts!) My husband is secretly encouraging as he said he was never allowed to learn drums, so is trying to live through her vicariously. They now practice together with saucepan lids and chop sticks at the weekend. I rue the day I agreed to this, and wonder if piano wouldn't have been a better idea for her too. Even my daughter's enthusiasm for the drums has recently turned to ambivalence.

6. Saturday mornings have become a homework hell zone, with off the cuff spelling tests, alternating between the 2 older children. For example, while one gets 'HOT' or 'LICK' the other gets 'DISMISS' and 'DISTRUST'. Meanwhile, I am cajoling the four year to form her 'S' shapes and kicking 'K's as per her teacher's instructions for weekend homework.

7. In the holidays I got the kids to run around the garden in readiness for cross country term. The first time they went round they both cried. The eldest is actually quite good and has been picked before for a major event with no training. This time she missed qualifying for the final by one place, but I haven't given up. She still might have the chance at a medal in the 'house' cross country event next week.

8. We actually agree to go to the dreaded weekend NASA gala swimming competitions and spend our time sitting about under the hot sun so our eldest can swim one length and come 46th out of 125 competitors.

9. I am thinking about going to a secondary school open day tomorrow, even though our eldest is not due to move on for 3 years.

10. I signed up my four year old for LAMDA this term (verse speaking and drama).

11. I have just made my third cake for the school bake sale this afternoon - the first two exploded - I blame the new baking powder. (late note: the 3rd cake was looking perfect, until walking into school a kite (big bird) flew down and swiped it with its talon! I had that whole wing flapping over my head moment, but managed not to drop it. The lemon drizzle cake did look in a bit of a sorry state after that, the cling film torn - not that enticing!) I then promise to buy my friend's cake and nearly choked when I saw it was going for 2,000/-! I had to fork out, based on the fact that it was all for a very good cause - the building of a new school for HIV orphans in Kibera.

12. I went to the book shop and got 'fun' maths books to fill in for the youngest (bless her, she did actually ask me for these. Probably wanting to copy her sister), plus a French, 'fun' book for the eldest. She was not so enthusiastic. I also bought Berlitz French flash cards and am actually using them. OMG!

This is so not like me. Am I beyond help?

However, in my favour:

1. I don't heckle at rounders matches (shouting things like 'run' or 'wait' or 'butter-fingers' from the sidelines. There's a lot of this, no joke) but I do try and go along and watch. This week I could not stop myself from casually asking my daughter about her fielding skills. 'Why do you run in the opposite direction when the ball starts coming toward you, even if it's just rolling along on the ground?' She said, 'Mum, you know I've been scared of the ball since I was hit on the nose.' I decided to drop the subject.

2. My kids do not do riding - don't start me on that one, by all accounts here it's a snake pit!

3. I am not a member of the Parents Association (though I/we do help out at fund raisers etc).

Can't think of anything else. I know that this dilemma is directly linked to the fact that my kids are suddenly older now. We have left the realms of nappies, potties and afternoon sleeps thank goodness! The question is when does 'encouraging' become 'pushing'?

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