Less 'Tiger mum', more 'pushover'

>> Friday, 18 March 2011

I never for a moment pretend to have all the answers but god, this parenting lark can be a tough one to call, can't it?

Once a week each of my Boys has an additional couple of hours lessons after school has finished. We're not putting them into Kumon Maths, we're not working on their on readin' and ritin'; instead, we're taking advantage of the opportunity for them to learn a little more Dutch than they would otherwise do. Husband speaks Dutch to our children, always has ever since they were born, but of course some English words creep in and since they know he speaks it, that's pretty much always the language they answer him in. Add in the fact that they have never lived in the Netherlands, that their parents talk to each other in English, and that all our Dutch friends and family also speak it, and the end result is that whilst they have a pretty good 'passive' vocabulary (and so can understand most if not all of what is said to them in Dutch), they're not so good at actually speaking it themselves.

Consequently, when we got the chance to put them into a Dutch-government sponsored school program (yes, I know: we never planned that living in Russia would improve their Dutch but life's like that sometimes) , it seemed like the perfect opportunity to boost their 'father-tongue'. Boy #1, after initial protests, has taken to it pretty well. His spoken Dutch has definitely improved and I'm told he's probably the best reader in the class. Boy #2? Not so much. Despite the fact that he probably sees more of his dad than his older brother did at the same age, on balance he hears less Dutch, which is in part my fault. With Boy #1, you see, I was rigorous in ensuring that he listened to Dutch nursery rhymes on tape, and that he watched Dutch dvd's (fyi, Bob the builder sounds more manly, and Wendy sexier in Dutch. Go figure.).

With your second child however, one is usually more relaxed. And whilst this is - overall - a good thing (for example there was no more stinking the house out making chicken stock recipes whilst weaning Boy#2 ; that madness was long passed thank god), it does mean I've been less strict about the Dutch thing too. The outcome of this has been that Boy #2 is less sold than his older brother on going from one school environment and down the hall (for the Dutch school happens on the same premises as their normal school) to another at the end of a day already 7 hours long.

So yesterday, when I went to collect Boy #2 from 'normal' school to walk him the 25 metres to Dutch school, and he looked at me with his big brown eyes and wept that he was 'too tired, mama, too too tired, please don't make me go, can't we just go home and play, and hang up the laundry?', I wavered.

We had been here before. Most weeks, if I'm honest. Usually I talk him 'round, jolly him along, and if that doesn't work, I physically pull him down the corridor until we get the classroom where I settle him down with his snack and distract him with his friends and the fun that he's going to have.

Yesterday, however, I didn't have it in me. I was tired, too. So tired that I could totally understand his 5 year-old request for time off from this merry-go-round of self improvement that we ruthlessly put our children on, telling ourselves it's for their own good and how lucky they are to have all these opportunities. It is for their own good. They are fortunate to have all these opportunities. But at five, sometimes all you want to do is just sit at home and play with your trains, and I get that.

So I decided that yesterday, not only was I not going to be a Tiger Mother and push him through it, but I was going to ignore the disciplinarian lurking in my subconscious who was shouting 'You know he's shamelessly manipulating you, don't you?' and give in to his pleadings.

Does that make me a bad mother? Or just a realistic one? I don't know. Perhaps I should have ignored his request 'for his own good'. But I do know this; I don't get offers of help to hang up the laundry so often that I can afford to turn them down when they do happen...


Milla 18 March 2011 at 12:28  

far wetter with second child - and this although E and I both older children and know how bloody unfair it all is!
5 is very little, something you don't really realise when they're 5. Am def of the opinion that less is more.
And, you know what? Always knew That Wendy was a slut.

Iota 18 March 2011 at 13:12  

I was emailing a friend in similar vein yesterday and she replied "you're doing the best you can with the resources you have - that's good enough for me". I found that very helpful.

But you've got me thinking. Could Bob BE manlier? Could Wendy BE sexier? Wow. My horizons have just expanded.

nappy valley girl 18 March 2011 at 14:03  

I think it's fine. You don't want to make him hate it. I did the same when the boys said they didn't want to carry on with ice skating lessons. They were doing well, so it was a shame, but if they really don't want to do it, why push them at age 5 and 4? We'll give it a go again next winter.

Bob the Builder in US sounds really dull - makes me long for the dulcet tones of Neil Morrissey.....

Tattie Weasle 18 March 2011 at 14:06  

I get shamlessly manipulated too by my nearly 5 year old...his way of doing it though is not via offering to help me with household chores but to say things like: You look tired Mummy wouldn't you like to lie down? And I could cuddle you....
he's SUCH a monstrous child!

Muddling Along 18 March 2011 at 15:48  

I'm with you on this one - sometimes they just need a chance to eb children and to have some time off

That said I know I'm much softer with Littler and worry that it means she's going to turn into a horrid little brat but what do you do when she holds her breath is told no?

mum in meltdown 18 March 2011 at 17:25  

Going for the realistic option definitely and as you say it doesn't happen every week so they wont get used to not going. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest!

Mwa 18 March 2011 at 22:00  

We all have to have a day off sometime, especially when we're five. You did good. I remember being allowed to stay off school once in Schotland, just because I couldn't face it. It only happened once, but I'm still grateful to my mum for that day.

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