I was born in Teesside, north-east England, the second of two daughters. I had a large extended family and we all lived close to one another and saw each other regularly. I enjoyed a traditional childhood in the Seventies and Eighties, watching too much television and eating convenience food because nobody minded if kids did that in those days.
My mum was, and still is, the opposite of a pushy mum. She didn’t have ambitions to launch my sister and me in any direction. I can’t remember an occasion when she nagged me to do homework (she didn’t have to, I always did it).
Which is why the news this week that parents should be careful not to aim too high for their children, as over-aspiration causes them to fail exams, caught my attention. Analysis of maths results among secondary-school pupils showed that the children of over-aspiring parents achieved worse test scores than children whose parents had realistic aims. It’s not news that stress is detrimental to performance, but admitting that we cause our children to feel this way is.
People aren’t pushy to be cruel; people are pushy because they are scared. Whether they are laid-back or a Tiger Mother, everyone wants the same thing: the best for their children. After all, it wasn’t long ago we were told that aspirations lifted grades.
I’m not saying my mother didn’t have ambitions for me. She did. She always worked in various administrative jobs that fitted around our school hours, yet she often told me I could do anything I wanted; I could be an astronaut, a princess, an engineer, an actress or a brain surgeon, but she never offered guidelines as to how this might be achieved. I got the feeling her ideas were daydreams, rather than serious suggestions.
Truthfully, my mother’s assessments of my talents were always far too generous. The aforementioned careers were more than a stretch; they were an impossibility. She thought I was brilliant at everything, even the things I was clearly very average at, so saw no need for extra lessons, practice or tutorage. She was blinded by love.
– Adele Parks