A Prodigy (in sheep’s clothing).

Being a parent is – largely – an exercise in becoming everything you hate.

I hate people who try to desperately live their unfulfilled dreams through their children. You know the type. They’re the ones at their kid’s sports match, screaming obscenities at a huddled bunch of five-year olds for some minor technical infringement. The volunteer referee has sensibly let it slide for the sake of encouraging children to actually go outside and play together but they too are now in the firing line for a stream of profanity-laden invective. I can’t help but feel that if you need vindication from your child’s sporting success at the expense of other children having fun then you are, to be honest, a bit of a nob.

The oldest has been cast in his primary school’s nativity. He’s a sheep.

“A sheep?!” I was livid when I found out. I didn’t take an A Level in Theatre Studies and toy with the idea of becoming an actor only to be benignly advised to do something sensible for my firstborn to become a sheep in his first school nativity. He’s at least wise-man material with the option to understudy for the role of Joseph.

He’s actually really happy in this picture. It’s called acting.

My wife, ever the voice of reason, suggested that I should be excited for him to perform and sing and go ‘baaa’. She is, as usual, right.

It occurred to me that this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened recently.

We had parent’s evening the other day for the youngest.  His key worker said that his maths was very advanced.

Once we got home I was online looking up advanced maths tuition courses for three to five-year olds and drawing out the blackboard from Good Will Hunting on the wall next to his bed.

I had to sit on the naughty step because we’re not allowed to draw or write on the paintwork.

Having worked in one of the best international schools in South-East Asia, I know what happens when parental academic aspirations run roughshod over childhood. I remember once being asked at a Year 7 parental consultation what were the best choices for IB if their daughter wanted to get on an engineering degree. I responded, utterly deadpan, that she was eleven years old.

To be honest, high-level maths at pre-school is probably the ability to count beyond twenty rather than working on his multivariable calculus.

A beautiful mind. Mainly focused on chips.


We’re really pleased with how the eldest has learnt to read over the last term. Indeed, his development has been surprising and quick and he is now getting a bit bored of his simple texts. My wife mentioned this to his teacher who said that the next level up went beyond what they had been taught and so he’d have to wait until the class had covered the necessary material.

My first reaction was to wonder aloud why my son was being held back by his lumpen and moronic classmates who have, quite clearly, been drinking wood varnish. Forgetting in a stroke the way his teacher and peers had, with unending kindness, patience and respect, helped him to become better at making friends.

Whilst I still find it difficult to like those who seem determined to crush the fun and spirit from their kids in the name of ‘success’ I suppose I understand them better. It’s hard to accept the bland mediocrity of one’s own existence being imposed upon someone you love with all of your being.

But surely the imposition of failed dreams, vicariously lived through your children like an avatar for your own desperate and faded youth must be far more damaging. It suggests that their successes are only given worth if framed in the rose-tinted nostalgia of someone who’s paunch now hides their genitals.

My wife’s advice is true. We should be proud of our boys because they do the things that are successes for them. There is something both humbling and liberating about having to bow out for the next generation. I suppose it is the natural order; we don’t pass the torch but give them the opportunity to make their own fire.

That said, I just got off the phone and the eldest has been promoted to lead sheep which I think we can all agree is one of the key parts in the story of the birth of Christ.

West End here I, er…we come!






3 Replies to “A Prodigy (in sheep’s clothing).”

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