I’m trying to teach my daughters not to be good girls.
“You don’t always have to be a good girl at school, just be who you are,” I tell my 7-year old. She stares at me, shakes her head, and says,
“You’re crazy, mummy. I have to be a good girl or the teachers will tell me off.”
“No, you don’t. Not if being a good girl means obeying every silly little rule, and not standing up for yourself,” I retort.
I’m not out to subvert my children’s school, but I think it’s ok to not know the eight times table perfectly before going to bed if you’re tired after a long day at school and need a bit of playtime before dinner.
And so what if there are a few spelling mistakes in your French homework? You’ll live, daughter dear.
There’s a reason why I am trying to encourage my daughters to bend the rules just a teeny bit at school: I am acutely aware of the personality split they exhibit at home and at school respectively. While my 7-year old is a poster child for good girls at school, her mood does a U-turn the moment she arrives home. Anger, resentment, jealousy take over, and I believe it’s partially a reaction to the pressure of behaving impeccably during the school day. Being a good girl is bloody exhausting.
I have first-hand experience of the damage that being a good girl can do – self-harm, eating disorders and depression – which is why I believe it’s infinitely more important that my kids are happy in themselves than scoring house points and getting straight A’s at school. I don’t give a toss about them being ‘Oxbridge material’. As long as they stay out of jail, don’t harm themselves or others and continue to pursue their passions in life, I’m happy.
I wish my daughters would worry less about getting told off by a teacher and feel a bit freer to express their emotions at school. That way, their dad and I might not have to serve as verbal punching bags when they come home. If you’re angry with a friend, tell them. If your teacher is unfair, speak up.
“So what, if your teacher tells you off for not bringing a pen grip to school,” I say to my 7-year old. “Don’t take it to heart.” Besides, I don’t want something as petty as a pen grip to ruin my entire evening.
To her older sister, my husband lectures about the need to speak up when we’re unhappy about something, such as getting a measly 6-line part in the school play for the seventh year running.
Sadly, we’re both failing badly in our attempt to instil some rebelliousness in our daughters. Unsurprisingly, the last thing they want to do is take advice from their dinosaur parents.
“You don’t understand,” the 11-year old screams and slams the door in her dad’s face, while her sister looks at me with reproach, “do you realise what trouble I’d get into if I were to follow your advice, mummy?”
Oh, help! School is turning my children into little good girl monsters, and I need to rescue them before it’s too late.
“I don’t care if you’re bad and get into trouble with your teachers now and then, as long as you are you,” I shout in exasperation to my daughters and play Pink Floyd to them.
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall