Giving Up On Gifted - And Aiming For Happy Instead

Today's guest post is by Polly Phillips. I'll let her introduce herself - she does a much better job than me. You can read more of her hilarious and honest musings over at Going Gaga with Lala - Greetings from the Mothershit.

"More slummy than yummy, follow me as I navigate my way through first-time motherhood. I'm 32, going on 12, and I moved to a foreign country with my three-month-old in tow in January 2013. Crazy much?! Highs and lows don't even come close to describing life with a mini-me in tow but I wouldn't change her (although clearly I have to - on a daily basis, but that's another story!) for the world."


Although the Christmas season is fast receding, my mind is still on gifts – and more specifically one that I can give myself this year and all years going forward. No, I’m not talking about the designer jacket with 40 per cent off that I slipped out to buy this morning; I’m talking about one with more long lasting effects (though the jacket is an ‘investment piece’ that will stand the test of time of course.). The greatest gift I’m giving myself is the release from trying to raise a gifted child. That’s right, I’m no longer trying to nurture a child prodigy – I just want a happy baby.

Naturally competitive, when I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t help wanting to endow my baby with every natural advantage and raise the perfect child. I scoured the internet (rookie mistake) and read all the baby books on brain development available, determined to boost my bub’s brain-power from the get go. But while I may have managed to eat everything I was supposed to, I fell at the first hurdle on the breastfeeding front, which some studies swear is the fast track to good grades and general genius. But for my little miss so far, so dumb, as I closed the milk counter at 3 months.

Undeterred, fresh from formula feeding, I redoubled my efforts, banning screen time and doing my best to ensure Little Miss had very little contact with phones or computers. Whether this has made a difference it’s obviously too early to tell, but, on reflection, it’s been at my cost. I look at other mothers who can buy themselves a spare minute at lunch by showing their child something on screen as a treat with envy. My unworldly toddler may not be addicted to the iphone but she’s hardly reading the dictionary in the corner – instead she’s shredding the menus and throwing food on the floor. I genuinely feel that any extra IQ points my self imposed ban might have earned her are at my own expense – I might have been a more relaxed mother if I’d had access to the box while on baby duty.

So that’s it, I thought, after the Christmas rush, when I settled back in the sitting room to watch something relaxing on television, with my dinky daughter destroying things on the floor nearby. I give up on gifted – I’m aiming for happy instead, and I’m starting with me.

It turns out I’ve spent so long aspiring for academia for my chubby cherub, I haven’t stopped to ask myself why. Are those with greater intelligence and qualifications actually much happier? Doubtful. And who is to say that these tiny steps I’ve been taking in toddlerdom will make any difference anyway.

Once upon a time I might have been classed as gifted myself (before this mothershit rotted my brain!). I was a straight A student and managed to score myself a place at one of the best universities in the world. But I’m the oft forgotten third child, formula reared from day one. I ate pizza and chips almost every day until I was in my early twenties, until I met my husband* I’d never met a vegetable I liked unless it was a pizza topping, and I’m pretty sure my mum was so desperate for a break from me and my older brothers that she probably plugged us into the television as often as she could. Hardly the textbook way to rear a genius. But despite those imperfections, to me she’ll always be perfect.

Had my mother had the chance to see me into my mothering years (sadly she died way before her namesake was born) she’d probably have pitied my obsession with perfection, poured me a large glass of wine, a round of gripe water for her granddaughter and told me to chill out. All with the telly blaring in the background.

So that’s it. Bye bye baby Einstein. I’m flushing my fish oil supplements, firing up facebook, turning on the television and splitting a dark chocolate digestive with my daughter. Because these small pleasures are what keep me going. And I’m what keeps her going. And for now, that’ll do. For later – there’s always summer school…

*To concerned readers, I don’t mean to imply that my husband is a vegetable – instead he can be credited with broadening my diet (and my hips).

Frances MonterosoComment