by KATE HUNTER
‘All I want is for him to be happy,’ I cooed when my first baby was born. I probably followed it up with, ‘I want only the best for him.’
And maybe, in the fog of new-baby euphoria, combined with a lack of sleep, I might have even said, ‘Nothing is too good for this little man.’
Now, I say bollocks to that. Except for the first one.
More than anything, I want my kids to be happy, but I’ve realised wanting the best for them and treating them like royalty are not pathways to happiness. They are pathways to bratty kids and parental misery.
I’ve embraced the ‘second best’ school of parenting. Actually, I may have invented it – or given it a name, at least. It’s a school that’s easy to get into, impossible to be expelled from and attracts a crowd that’s heaps more fun than the ‘only the best‘ sister-school up the road.
I see, ‘only the best,’ parents all the time. Some of them are good friends. Problem is, I never get to talk to them properly because they’re too busy going to school open days or racing from gymnastics to guitar lessons to get together for coffee.
I say, ‘Why don’t you send Genevieve to the gymnastics centre in Kelvin Grove?’ and my friend Jen will reply, ‘I would, but the one at Cleveland is so much better. The head coach was at the Institute.’
It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell my friend she belongs in an institute, but I don’t. It’s none of my business (although it is, because I miss her and I’d like to have a proper conversation before we’re ninety) and I’m not the one driving a 40km round trip for a nine year old’s gymnastics class.
If only she would be more like me! And embrace second bestness. It’s very liberating.For her, and other parents breaking their backs building their kids perfect worlds, I’ve summarised the main points of Second Best Parenting thusly:
1. Lobbying for the best teacher in the school does your child no favours. One of the most important lessons we learn at school is, ‘Identification and management of dicks.’ Some people are fond of saying, ‘All teachers are awesome; every single one of them deserves the Order of Australia.’
As in all other professions, most teachers are great, but some are dicks. And even a five year old needs to learn the difference. Of course, if you live in a very remote town, with a one teacher school, and that teacher’s a dick, then yes, you have a problem.