Motherhood hasn’t come naturally to Daisy Leverington. Three years in and she remains wide-eyed, terrified and in awe of the little person she’s responsible for. Stay tuned to follow her parenthood progress.
Illustration by Louise Boulter
Henry is three. His mother is staring into my eyes for a response to something she just said, but I am entirely sidetracked by his determined gnawing at a pinecone stuck to a wall display at a primary school we’re all here to view.
Henry loses interest in the pinecone and picks up a play-doh frog one of the reception students has made, and quickly pops the whole thing in his mouth. I stare at him until he barfs it back out, slimy and mis-shapen, into a sand pit.
Still searching for something to say to his mother, she saves me by loudly repeating herself. “Henry is a good two years ahead in literacy, I do hope they cater for more gifted children here”.
Ah, so that’s why I couldn’t find anything to say. There is no reasonable response to this. We are all here with kids of the same age, viewing potential schools in the hope that one of them relents and accepts our kid into mainstream society.
I think that’s how it works anyway. I’ve packed a notepad for the tour in case I need to look like I’m writing notes. I smell heavily of dry shampoo.
The school itself is wonderful. Busy, bright, full of life.
I’ll be happy if they take my kid. I’d be happy if anyone took her for an hour to be honest, as long as I got pee in peace again.
I look from Henry to his mother. He is drooling heartily and picking something out of his ear. “He certainly is something special,” I manage to force out.
Looking around the rest of the assembled parents, I naively assume they are in on the joke. Apparently not. Henry’s mum has unleashed something within the group.
Martha looks at me like I’ve shit on the carpet and carries on colouring in. I strike her mum off my Christmas card list.
A bragathon begins in earnest, producing such proclamations as “Olivia has always enjoyed exploring mechanics” and “William is taught with the carrot and not the stick at home”.
Since I can’t even get my kid to eat carrot sticks, I opt to keep quiet, slink to the back of the group and hope these people chose other schools for their kids.
I don’t care if she’s two years ahead or behind in literacy, she’s still a toddler and I’m terrified to think she’ll be surrounded by competition so soon.
She has no idea what she’s going to have to wade through in reception class
The head teacher looks bemused at the passive aggressive competition and offers me the smallest flicker of a smirk. I love her. Take my child, stranger. Mould her into something that can tidy up after herself and I’ll be happy.
As we are herded into another classroom I spot my friend’s four-year-old daughter sat beautifully at her desk. I wave like a lunatic, glad to see a familiar face.
“Hey Martha!” I shout, delighted to have found living, breathing proof for the group that I am popular and friendly.
Martha looks at me like I’ve shit on the carpet and carries on colouring in. I make a mental note to strike her mum off my Christmas card list.
The tour concludes in the foyer where we started. The other parents have fallen silent at last, seemingly run dry of boasts about their talented kids.
I look at my notepad. I’ve inexplicably written the words “Jurrasic Park?”, and the question mark makes me think I may have a half-formed query for the headteacher.
Ah ha! “How secure is the perimeter fence?” I ask suddenly.
It seems my entire involvement in the tour has been building towards me asking this utterly insane question, which makes me sound as if a) my child is a master escapologist; b) I’m a burglar; or c) my child is a dinosaur.
“Pretty secure,” offers the Head. “Brilliant, thanks, bye,’ I reply.
The other parents watch in silence as I make my way through the group to the door, sweating and red-faced.
I spot Henry as I push the door open, he’s diligently swapping Year Two’s lunches from one bag to another, and I give him a wink on the way out. I know who I’d rather sit with in class.
Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.