Friday, 22 March 2013

The North Face Divide

It was Parent Consultation Day at nursery this week.

As Henry's sister is barely 4, I assumed her teacher would just show me a few delightful paintings, tell me she was fairly average and ask if I had any questions.

Of course, if I was really honest, I was secretly hoping they would tell me that without realising it I have produced a mathematical/artistic/musical genius and they have been saving it up to tell me in person just so they could see my face.

I also suspected that a Nursery Consultation is not about the child at all, but primarily for the teacher to understand more about their pupil by taking a good look at her parents. In order to cover this, I got dressed in the hallway two minutes before leaving the house (thus ensuring that no one could stain me) and spent the car journey practising the faces I would need.

These included:

Extremely Interested In This Terms Topic On India Face
Understanding Everything You Are Telling Me About Phonics Face
Graceful Acceptance Of Your Compliments Re My Parenting Skills Face

And in the unlikely event of a totally unsubstantiated 'area for improvement', the Concerned Frown And Listening Carefully Face.

"She's settled in wonderfully", her teacher smiled, as we sat down in her office and I got my best Extremely Interested In This Terms Topic On India Face ready to go.

"Fantastic observational skills", she enthused, showing me a list of times my daughter had spotted a cloud that looked like a dog or noticed another, less observational child, choking on a felt tip.

"And wonderful colouring-in" she gushed, pushing a crinkled pile of unidentifiable scribble under my nose.

"She has a very mature vocabularly and is where she should be for recognising and using numbers".

I was just about to ask if that was 'where she should be' for a child prodigy, when the teacher said;

"However, I have got one thing that she might want to work on..."

(deploy Concerned Frown And Listening Carefully Face).

"She can't catch a ball."


"She can't catch a ball. During P.E., we look at their physical skills. And she can't catch a ball."
"Just a little thing really".
"Right, yes. I mean, that's just quite weird because I'm....I..(was shit at netball?? Can just about throw a tantrum??) My husband is really very sporty" (deploy unrehearsed Casually Accusing You Of Lying Face).

"Yes, don't worry, she just needs a bit more practice, she'll get there in the end."
 "Oh, and she also needs to help more at Tidy Up Time."

And that was it. The moment I was finally convinced, that genetics is A Thing.

On the way out, I bumped into Grace Hobbington-Dodsworth's mum. "Hiya!" she waved, jogging athletically across the car park."Bit late! Had to drop Grace off at her tennis lesson, massive queues at the lights..."

And so all I could think about on the way home were all those families who before we had children I thought we might be like - and quite a lot of whom I actually now know - who every weekend, regardless of freezing fog or torrential rain, don a North Face jacket and a Baby Bjorn and trudge enthusastically up massive hills, pausing at the top to feel the ice cold wind on their wholesome, middle-class cheeks and pull up their hoods to share a seeded cob and flask of tea. Their children's first words are either 'ground sheet' or 'National Trust' and they nearly always own an allotment.

These people's children can definitely throw.

"Right, we need to talk", I said matter-of-factly as I walked through the door.
"Oh, hi, you're back. Need to talk about what?"
"Tennis. Tidying up." I said, tripping over my pyjamas in the hallway. "And balls...".

"Maybe we should just do more stuff," their father shrugged later, watching me Google sailing lessons for toddlers on the iPad. "We could spend less time sitting inside and just...get out there", he said, sweeping his arms towards the fridge.

This was an insultingly simplistic suggestion after the good fifty five minutes I had just spent exaggerating the potential consequences of not being able to throw a ball on our daughter's entire life.

And, standing against the radiator, hands wrapped around a cup of tea, I peered unconvinced out of the window. As anyone living in Yorkshire will be able to testify, it has not got above 3 degrees any day this week. By the time we've all put on the 37 layers it takes to avoid freezing to death in the local park, it really isn't worth going out.

So for the rest of the day I tried my very hardest to make staying in a bit more...'sporty'.

I managed to include the occasional, "I've found your teddy...CATCH!" and "Let's clear up these toys...just chuck them in the box. Throw, just throw them in. From there. Stop walking. JUST THROW THEM".

And as I turned down the page where we'd stopped in our new bedtime story, 'Hitting Back - The Autobiography of Andy Murray', I smiled and kissed our wonderful little girl on the head and said good night. "I'm proud of you darling, you're doing so well and I love you for exactly who you are". Because I really do.

"You didn't buy sailing lessons then", their Father joked as I came downstairs. He settled into the sofa with a cup of tea and switched on the tv.

"Ha! No, of course not", I laughed, flopping down next to him.

Of course I didn't buy sailing lessons. None of us really like getting wet. We hate being cold. We'd much rather be inside, doing something together, just us.

So I've bought a tent.


  1. You are brilliant.Oscar has announced he is good at kickball, so we could give that a go... smug moment - he had a very good thrusting arm. Yep he can lob that chalk across the patio to smash into our brick wall. Delightful new game.

    1. haha! Yes, that it definitely what she needs - a sporty role model :)