School of thought
One of the things that I will never quite understand about being a Dad is the balance between the inner me and the outer me. More precisely, how far I can let the inner me show in matters relating to my kids, their wellbeing and their future. Decisions that you would instinctively take as an individual suddenly lead to big internal flashing lights and alarm bells, “BEWARE THE INNER YOU IS AT LARGE, DO NOT APPROACH, HE IS KNOWN TO BE CRANKY AND RECALCITRANT”.
At the moment we’re looking towards big school for my eldest, a journey that he will undertake in September 2011 but which for some unknown reason, relating to bureaucracy and the necessity for an EU prescribed number of tea breaks in a Lunar Calendar year, needs to be dealt with by the end of this month. This constitutes a nightmare of epic proportions for middle class families around the country as we come to terms with the fact that the promised choice we are supposed to have is less than presented by Hobson on a bad day. And of course, being middle class parents we beat ourselves up about it thinking that we should have; worked harder, earned more, bought that nice house next to the nice school, never had kids, married the au pair [delete as appropriate].
In many ways we are lucky, there is the local school, the local boys’ school or the local independent school to “choose” from. The local school is currently “under special measures”, a euphemism that leaves little to the imagination. Many of this friends will be going there and of course I know that a good kid will do well wherever he goes. But having been to a school during the last recession that was failing and flailing I’m not convinced that this is the right choice for him. Sure, I did alright but I’m never sure what I might have done in another environment and I will never know.
So ruling that out for the moment, we are left with a “choice” of two. The boys school is massively oversubscribed, it is the goal of every parent of a boy in year 6 throughout the county. It has high standards and a reputation of producing leaders in all fields. I know this, because they told me on numerous occasions on the night that I was there. They also told me a lot of other things, how tough the standards were, how boys could not have the hair cut too short, how….how….how…. and it at this point that my inner me screams,
I don’t want my son to grow up in some misogynistic community where towels are whipped across arses (or worse) in show of domination. I don’t want him to go to a school where being a strong leader is rated above being a strong follower, I don’t want him to think that if you aren’t captain of the first XI or the first XV then somehow you are a nothing, a wannabe. I want him to grow being assured and aware of his differences, but to see them as strengths, I want him to be proud of his achievements and not look to those of others for self worth and appreciation. I don’t want him to be one of THOSE men that I meet in conferences or meetings, who have nothing to say to me of any interest despite their perfectly coiffured hair and shiny shoes. I didn’t sign up for that when I became a parent.
At the end of the day, I guess it isn’t my choice…..it is his. The other option, the independent school is small, it focuses on creating learners and every child fulfilling their potential. As they said on the night, “we aren’t a conveyor belt producing perfect students” (but they do have the best results in the county). But, it doesn’t matter what I think and ultimately we are luckier than many in that we can provide him with choices. Still a little piece inside me hopes that on 1 Match 2011 when we hear back, he isn’t going to make it into the boys’ school and instead we will be left with a “choice” that suits me. Does that make me a bad father? Maybe, maybe not.
Driving back from the independent school the other day, he asked me about the money that it would cost. I replied that it didn’t really matter that we all have choices, “All I can provide you with is love, security and an education”.
The rest, my son, is up to you.