When we moved to Lancashire, Flea and I signed up to a variety of activity groups, hoping to meet some other Mums and kids.
On one level it was a resounding success – we met some great Mums at swimming, and I knew I’d get along with the local vicar the moment I clapped eyes on the Photoshopped picture of him with two bikini clad vixens on his bathroom wall.
But on another level, it’s all rather depressing, isn’t it?
“Give your child a head-start in the classroom!” chirrups one website, before moving on to a series of facts and figures about educational underachievement, with the unspoken assumption that if your child ends up with no GCSEs, shooting up heroin in a Camden bedsit, it’s probably because you didn’t do enough to nurture his pre-literacy and communication skills.
At one activity class, I watched as a group of mothers tried to keep their toddlers focused on a series of small pictures, trying to match rooms with objects, and spotting things that rhymed.
Flea, like the impeccable three year old she is, gathered up all of her pictures, announced “These are my birthday party invitations” and proceeded to ‘post them’ through an imaginary letterbox, throwing them exuberantly across the room.
When I admonished her with the words “You’ll end up at a third-rate polytechnic at this rate,” I’m not entirely sure the class leader realised I was being ironic.
When I told another class leader it wouldn’t occur to me to be impressed by a three-year-old knowing all their letters, I got a lecture about “the downward spiral of educational achievement”. Pfft.
Not that all activity classes are evil, of course. Flea and I have been swimming since she was 10 weeks old – she was about 16 weeks when the photo on this post was taken – and hand on heart, she’s had a great time and still loves swimming. But the key is that we’d go swimming even if there weren’t any ‘benefits’. It’s just fun, and we both really enjoy it.
If Flea follows my example, she’s got 17 years of full-time education to look forward to. I don’t care about boosting her academic performance just yet, thanks. I care that she’s learning to sit on a big swing on her own, she’s got great manners and she can create an entire imaginary world using nothing more than a tea towel and a box of Playmobil. Oh, and she’s now able to go downstairs and get her own cereal in a cup while I stay in bed.*
What do you think? What activities have you really enjoyed with your little ones?
* ps – not really.