I have just witnessed my two-year-old complete a jigsaw puzzle aimed at 4-7 year olds. This is the same child who was talking in full sentences when she was 18 months old, potty trained herself, and can count to 32.
However I would never mention any of this to anyone, apart from my husband, and maybe her grandparents. In fact, after five years of motherhood I tend to go completely the other way when discussing my children's skills.
This is because I have learnt that just about anything you say about your child can be perceived as being boastful and competitive
by other mums.
Perhaps the most completely random example was when I once said to a fellow mum: "I find it a bit odd that my daughter likes chewing on raw garlic."
"Oh well you've got the perfect child haven't you Elsie," she retorted. I was gobsmacked. All I was doing was trying to have a conversation and a bit of a laugh with this woman.
I have also developed a sensitivity towards other mums. If your toddler refuses to eat vegetables, the last thing in the world you want to hear from another mum is how amazing their child is at eating EVERYTHING. I have been guilty of this in the past, but I don't think this was through wanting to sound amazing (OK, perhaps just a little), but mainly through thoughtlessness.
This was partly down to the fact that when my eldest daughter was born, I was totally clueless and absolutely terrified. She cried non-stop for six weeks, she wouldn't feed properly and I felt completely useless as a mother. So the first opportunities I had to say something remotely impressive about my child like "she loves roast lamb" or "she pointed at the window", I would find myself blurting it out.
However, I remember I got to the stage, after many meetings with all sorts of different mums, where I became terrified about engaging in any kind of conversation which was even remotely baby-related for fear of appearing smug
, or defensive. I also began to tire of the endless conversations about milestones
. I realised I really don't care what other babies weigh, or eat for breakfast.
I knew that I had turned a corner when my daughter was cast as Mary in the pre-school nativity, but when asked by a fellow parent who my daughter was playing, I casually told her that I thought she was probably a sheep or a cow.
My eldest daughter, now five, recently had her first school report. I was bursting with pride at her teacher's comments, and wanted to shout it from the roof tops. I was desperate to tell my friends how well my daughter was doing with reading, writing and maths. But I was worried that I would either look like I was showing off, or worse, implying criticism of their children. So if friends ask how she is getting on I say something non-committal like: "She quite likes going on the school bus."
Julia, a mum of one, disagrees with my cautious approach and says that children's accomplishments should be celebrated
. "Parents have every right in the world to talk honestly and passionately about their children's achievements, and any friend who takes offence to this needs to be ditched," she says.
However, Steve, dad of two, says: "Of course no one is interested in how well your child is doing at school, it is utterly boring to anyone other than the parents. If a friend shows me his child's school report I not only won't look at it but I'll stare at him until he goes away."
So how do we, as parents, negotiate this minefield? Is it ok to talk about your child's achievements or can bragging about your child become obnoxious?
According to Claire, a teacher from St Helens, she says that when talking of your child's achievements to other parents it can be perceived as boasting, and so she advises that parents should "choose their words very carefully".
However, she says it IS ok to boast to the teacher: "I worry far more about a parent who doesn't tell me anything about their child's achievements, than a parent who is constantly sending in certificates and photographs of their child's ability to write their name in Swahili!"
Anna, a mother of two, says: "I would love to say that I'm not guilty of boasting about my children's achievements, and that others simply notice their enigmatic character and genius, but I spend hours uploading video footage of them to send to anyone who will show the faintest interest."
And Anna admits that a small part of this is down to the fact that she wants to be seen as an amazing parent. "But I would hope that it's mostly down to the fact that I want others to love my children just a fraction as much as I do. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that," she says.
So, after five years and two children, I am now very cautious when speaking about my children in a positive light. This seems a great shame, especially as they are obviously both the brightest and most adorable children ever to walk the planet. But if I really feel the need to let out some pent up praise for my kids, I can always go and find their teacher...
What do you think?
Do you boast about your children because, frankly, why wouldn't you? Or do you keep the showing off to very close family?
- ...and then offers her lipo
Sarah hit the headlines again when it was revealed she had put a <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/01/04/human-barbie-mum-buys-seven-year-old-daughter-7-000-liposuction-gift-voucher/" target="_blank">£7,000 liposuction voucher</a> into her seven-year-old’s Christmas stocking. The shocking mum said: “She asks for surgery all the time. She wants to look good and lipo is one of those procedures that will always come in handy. I see these vouchers as investing in her future - like saving money for her education."</p>
- Mum dresses toddler as a prostitute
Toddlers and Tiaras, the hit show from America, has thrown up plenty of horrifying moments over the last year, kicking off with Wendy Dickey, who paraded her three-year-old daughter, Paisley in a matching get-up to Julia Roberts’ <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/09/07/mum-dresses-toddler-up-as-prostitute-for-beauty-pageant/" target="_blank">prostitute</a> character in Pretty Woman. A few weeks later she was on the show again, with little Paisley in <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/11/24/new-toddlers-and-tiaras-shocker-three-year-old-in-fishnet-stocking-pushy-mum-wendy-dickey-paisley/" target="_blank">fishnet tights,</a> shaking her stuff for the judges.</p>
- Pageant mum threatens daughter on TV
Pushy parent syndrome reached boiling point during an <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/09/22/pageant-mums-threat-to-daughter-you-are-going-to-be-a-very-sorry-girl/" target="_blank">episode</a> of Toddlers and Tiaras in September when mum Melissa Wynn was filmed threatening to take her five-year-old daughter, Carley’s iPod away if she didn’t practise her pageant routine. Melissa was overheard telling the terrified tot: “We are on camera. Don't you dare tell me no one more time. You are going to be a very sorry girl.”</p>
- Drink driving mum couldn't spell her son's name
Mum Kirsty Dieng couldn’t even spell her own son’s name when she was <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/10/02/does-this-make-me-a-bad-mum-the-drink-driving-mother-who-could-not-spell-her-own-son-name/" target="_blank">stopped for drink driving</a> after crashing her car while three times over the limit. The 23-year-old mum was so drunk she asked an officer: “Does that make me a bad mum?” She was banned from driving for 18 months and handed a 12-month community order. She was also ordered to pay £85 court costs.</p>
- Mum-to-be jailed for assault
The only expectant mum making it on our shortlist, Hayley Cook was jailed for <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/11/29/eight-months-pregnant-hayley-cook-mum-jailed-for-supermarket-assault/" target="_blank">attacking</a> a fellow shopper outside a supermarket in Kent. The mum of two was expecting her third child when she was sentenced to jail time for breaking the woman’s pelvis, with the judge telling her: “The impending birth of your child will have to be managed within the prison system... and away from your children over Christmas."</p>
- Mum sells kids on eBay
It all got a bit much for one unidentified mum when she put her children up for <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/07/18/mum-sells-kids-on-ebay/" target="_blank">auction on eBay!</a> The mum is said to have composed a 'lengthy sales pitch' for the two youngsters - who are both believed to be under 10 - and placed it on the auction site. We think she must have been in a very desperate place to log-on and do that…</p>
- Teen mum leaves baby home alone
A teenage mum chose clubbing over baby sitting when she headed out, leaving her 12-month-old alone in an <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/10/04/teen-mum-left-baby-home-alone-12-month-old-tot-found-by-men/" target="_blank">unlocked house.</a> The infant was discovered by a group of men the neglectful mum had told to go to her house for a party. They discovered the baby and phoned the police. Bridgend Magistrates imposed an eight-week suspended jail sentence, and a two-year supervision order on the woman, and ordered her to pay £85 costs after admitting willful neglect of a child in a manner likely to cause suffering, injury or death.</p>
- Mum looted while carrying toddler
After the summer riots, shocking CCTV footage emerged of a mum <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/08/17/mum-looted-an-argos-store-carrying-toddler/" target="_blank">looting</a> an Argos store with a toddler tucked under her arm! The woman, assumed to be the mother of the child, was spotted on the CCTV tapes walking out of an Argos store in East London with the stolen goods.</p>
- Mum tries to sell baby at Taco Bell
A desperate mum was arrested in Vancouver in July after she was spotted trying to <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/07/20/mum-tried-to-sell-newborn-baby-at-taco-bell/" target="_blank">sell her three-day-old baby</a> to another customer at Taco Bell. Police said Heidi Knowles, 36, asked for bids between $500 and $5,000 for the baby. She was described as being 'drunk or high' at the time of her arrest and her baby was taken into care.</p>
- Toddlers and Tiaras mum in doping shock
The show hit the headlines again when one of the mums was accused of <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/01/06/toddlers-and-tiaras-are-pageant-mums-doping-their-daughters-to-perform-better/" target="_blank">doping her daughter </a>with suspect ‘go go juice’ to get her to perform more outrageously. Six-year-old Alana was filmed necking the unidentified juice before rolling around on the floor excitedly. She then shook her stuff for the judges in a Daisy Duke inspired get-up, while her mum, June shouted encouragement from the sidelines.</p>
- Mum treats re-born doll like a real baby despite having a daughter
You have to feel for 12-year-old Becky, whose mum spends all her time and energy looking after her <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/12/06/mum-spends-hundreds-on-real-life-doll-and-treats-him-like-a-real-baby/" target="_blank">‘re-born doll’</a> which she treats like a real baby. Ashleigh Kirby, 36, changes "Finlay's" nappy, takes it shopping, for walks in a pram to the local park and has a cot in her bedroom so it can 'sleep' next to her. She bought the doll six months ago after splitting up with her partner because she feared she would never have children again.</p>
- Four-year-old gets spray tanned by mum
Jools Willis, mum to four-year-old Tate and ten-year-old Darcie appeared on TV’s <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/09/02/four-year-old-girl-spray-tanned-by-mum-to-boost-her-confidence/" target="_blank">Pushy And Proud - Pamper Parlour Mums</a>, where she admitted giving her daughters spray tans, alarmingly to “boost their confidence”. Little Tate said on the show: “I like having a spray tan because it makes me look good. I like having the same as Mummy.” Jools also claimed the tanning helped older daughter, Darcie because she is a dancer and having a tan 'helps' her under the stage lights. The mind boggles…</p>
- Mum injects eight-year-old with botox
Sheena Upton made national news when she told The Sun she injected her eight-year-old daughter with <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/05/20/botox-injecting-mum-did-she-take-newspaper-bribe-to-make-up-story/#" target="_blank">botox and gave her body waxes</a> before pageant contests. Just as we were gasping at her behaviour, the plot thickened when Sheena said she had been paid by the paper to lie about the whole thing. Either way, pretty hideous all round…</p>
- Parents make daughter wear sign admitting she stole
Mum and dad Melissa and Montrail White were determined to prove right from wrong when their eight-year-old daughter Amiyah was caught stealing. They made her wear a sign saying, “I like to steal from others and lie about it” and paraded her in front of her school friends and teachers. Teachers at Amiyah’s school were having none of it, and her dad was removed from the school premises by police. <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/04/19/over-reaction-parents-make-daughter-8-wear-sign-admitting-she-had-been-stealing-in-front-of-school/" target="_blank">You can find out more about this story with our video news report.</a></p>
- Mum who plasters four-year-old girl in make-up faces online backlash
American mummy blogger Lindsay Cross sent shock waves across the web when she admitted she let her four-year-old daughter Brenna wear make-up. <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/05/01/mum-who-plasters-four-year-old-girl-in-make-up-faces-online-back/" target="_blank">She appeared on ABC news to defend her decision</a> (next to her daughter who was plastered in make-up of course), saying: “When I wrote the piece I didn't think it was that monumental of a deal. I didn't think that it was something that was just too out of the norm." What do you think? </p>
- Mum accused of taking daughter, five, into tanning booth
Tanning addict Patricia Krentcil first made headlines when <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/05/02/tanning-addict-mum-accused-of-allowing-five-year-old-daughter-to-use-tanning-booth/" target="_blank">she denied taking her five-year-old daughter Anna into a tanning booth with her</a>. Following her arrest for child endangerment, she <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/05/04/tanorexic-mum-says-claims-she-took-five-year-daughter-tanning-are-from-jealous-fat-ugly-people/" target="_blank">hit out at her critics, branding them fat and ugly</a>, saying: "There's somebody out there for my whole life that doesn't like me because they are jealous, fat and they're ugly. I would never, ever put my daughter in a tanning booth." Nice.</p>
- Baby girl thrown into path of lorry
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">A baby girl narrowly escaped a gruesome death after the car she was riding in skidded out of control on an icy Russian road while overtaking, straight into an oncoming truck. The one-year-old baby was thrown from the car into the road but the next truck was able to slow down just in the nick of time. </span><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The baby, who was not in a car seat or wearing a seat belt but was apparently wrapped in a blanket behind the driver's seat, was treated for minor cuts and bruises at a local hospital. You can <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2013/01/26/video-baby-girl-thrown-into-path-of-lorry-and-miraculously-survives-russia/" target="_blank">see the incredible footage here.</a></span></p>
- Parents 'blacked up' baby with chocolate spread to look like Mario Balotelli
This poor baby was painted with chocolate spread and photographed with a sponge on his head for a Twitter prank. The little boy's parents <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2013/03/03/baby-blacked-up-with-chocolate-spread-to-look-like-mario-balotelli-twitter-storm/" target="_blank">dressed him up</a> as footballer Mario Balotelli, complete with babygro with the striker's favourite saying: "Why is it always me?"</p>
- Dad forced 8-year-old daughter to drive at 60 mph on icy road
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Many a parent has allowed their kids to sit behind the wheel of their car and pretend they're taking the brum-brum for a spin. Note the key word here: Pretend. But one dad took the concept to a whole new and dangerous level. </span><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">For instead of allowing his eight-year-old daughter to sit behind the wheel in the safety of their own driveway, </span><a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2013/02/28/dad-forced-filmed-8-year-old-daughter-to-drive-at-60-mph-on-icy-road-russia/" style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;" target="_blank">he forced her to drive the family Audi at more than 60 mph</a><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;"> - on a perilously icy road. And then filmed her. Top Gear, eat your heart out!</span></p>
- Human Barbie mum gives seven-year-old a boob job voucher...
Cosmetic queen Sarah Burge told Closer magazine her seven-year-old daughter, Poppy, ‘squealed with delight' when she was handed a £6,000 boob job voucher for her <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/06/09/seven-year-old-girl-gets-boob-job-voucher-for-her-birthday/" target="_blank">birthday.</a> Sarah says she’s determined to turn her little girl into a glamour model, adding: “Poppy begged me for a boob job, so I gave her the voucher so she can have it after she's 16, when it's legal.”</p>