'Reception'. Illustration by me.

‘Reception’. Illustration by me.

Open Day. Colet Court School, Barnes. This is where Mr Bovary wants to send Hubert when he is seven. For much of the morning the baby and I sit in the Reception. It is perfectly silent and still until the boys are let out of their lessons and come running through during break-time, at which point it becomes tumultuous. As the boys swarm about us, the baby and I play a game of Who Will Be The a) Love Rat b) Nice Guy c) Mummy’s Boy and d) One That Gets Angry If You Have Too Many Windows Open On Your Computer in 20 Years’ Time.

I’m giving her an education. It’s specialised. It’s bespoke. Register here. Enclose a non-refundable registration fee of £100.

A little while earlier we duck out of the tour of the school on account of the fact that she is becoming raucous. Prospective parents hate noisy babies.  No coochy-coo here. No smiles for the baby. No nods of sisterly understanding from the other woman-folk on the tour. Talk about pushy, baby. Talk about muscling in. Talk about tunnel-visioned.

These people have all the questions. There is so much they need to know. Tell me about the 7+. Tell me about the 13+. What’s your view on the 11+? Should he go to a day school where there is one space per 10 applicants or a boarding school where there is one for every five? Should we move to the provinces where there is much less pressure and competition? Does he need coaching? Who can I get to coach him? When do we need to start coaching him? 

What is at the end of it all? Is it 3 A*s? Is it Oxbridge? Is it medical school and a miserable career as a junior doctor? Is it a training contract at a corporate law firm traded in for a fishing boat on the North Sea having burned out at 30? Or has it something to do with something else altogether – correcting our own failures, adjusting our near misses, undoing past rejection? The interviews we bodged. The exams we ran out of time on. The jobs we didn’t get. The money we didn’t make. The people we didn’t marry. The happiness we can’t quite reach… Or is it something to tell people for want of other things to say? My son goes here or there… You must be so proud.

And anyway, there is so much more to life isn’t there? Like playing Love Rat here with my daughter.

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