It’s been a little over 15 weeks since Isaac ventured off to ‘big boy school’ for the first time. Overall, it would be fair to say that his first term has gone as well as either Heather or I dared to hope, and we’re both bursting with a bad case of that parents-only disease known as proudparentitis.
It is an affliction well known to most parents of school-age children. It starts off as a relatively mild illness known as nervousparentitis. This generally starts to manifest itself two to three weeks before their child starts at school. Symptoms range from mild concern about whether their child will fit in to tears and separation anxiety on that first morning. (Sometimes the children themselves cry too.)
If untreated, in some cases this can develop into a nasty case of competitiveparentitis. This is characterised by the need to know that little Johnny/Joanna has been identified as one of the faster learners academically, or has won more prizes/stickers than anyone else, or is the most popular child in class, or is already catching the eyes of Premier League scouts for their football prowess in the playground at lunchtime.
Depending on how ‘well’ they are doing, this can evolve into a number of related conditions: acuteworryitis, where parents perceive that their child is not learning or developing as fast as they were hoping; pushyparentitis, where parents feel that the teachers are undervaluing their child’s ability and should be upgrading or devoting more time to them; and boastfulparentitis, where parents ceaselessly bang on about how their child is the next Stephen Hawking/Richard Branson/David Beckham/superior to your child in every conceivable way.
I have no desire to boast of Isaac’s achievements, but I am hugely proud of him. His reading and writing have come on in leaps and bounds this term, and while I’m delighted that he seems to be displaying a not inconsiderable degree of academic ability – he’s amassed a number of recognition awards already and last week came home with something called the Class Cup (is that like the League Cup?) – I’m far more pleased by the fact that he seems to actively enjoy his studies, which to me is far more important. If he’s going to be spending the next dozen years or more of his life in formal education, I’d much rather he was mediocre and had fun than be brilliant and miserable.
I’m just as delighted by his social development. Isaac has always been a fairly mature, outgoing, happy and popular boy, and this seems to have continued in the transition from preschool to primary school. He gets on well with other children in his class and they seem to get on well with him. He’s completely different from me in that respect – from a young age I’ve always been what one might call ‘socially awkward’: painfully shy, not much of a talker and happiest in my own company – and I’m thankful that he appears to have taken that aspect of his personality more from his mother.
I was so pleased when we learned that he had been chosen to play Joseph in his nativity play this year. Surely it can only be a matter of time before the major Hollywood studios come knocking at his door to offer him room at the inn? (Or something like that.)
On reflection, there is no one specific thing that makes me proud. Yes, he’s pretty bright. Yes, he has made good friends. Yes, school is a place at which he finds both stimulation and fun. All these things are good. But the conclusion I’ve come to is that I would be proud of him no matter what as long as he is finding it enjoyable in some way and achieving some kind of personal growth. Shouldn’t that be enough to make any parent proud? Proudparentitis isn’t really a disease at all – it’s a blessing.