The Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University, 1960. (Photo by Lawrence D. Thornton/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Poison Ivy League

Claudia Savage-Gore faces the grim prospect of her daughters opting for US universities

Hot House

Had a fascinating conversation with my friend Pandora’s sister the other day, who’s a teacher at a particularly OTT prep in Dulwich. She told me that there’s a specific kind of parent all teachers at private schools dread, who is invariably older, high-achieving and foreign, and has an only child. This is a pattern she and all her teacher friends have noticed and is apparently the perfect storm of pushiness and likelihood of treating teachers like client services.

Felt irrationally relieved/smug at not fitting any of the criteria (except perhaps the older part, but choosing to forget that). Why do I still want to please teachers? It’s the same thing that makes me feel about ten years old myself at parents’ evenings. Even though the teachers are all decades younger than me.

In other prep news, the parents at Hector’s school are lobbying for packed lunches (something about the meat substitutes being too processed). At the moment the school has a no-lunchbox policy, after the time a macadamia nut was found on the floor of the dining hall (school meant to be a nut-free zone).

The sudden interest in Harvard definitely has more to do with grim US Tik Tok videos, than any desire to specialise in the liberal arts

Bumped into Natasha, one of the PTA mothers from Hector’s class, on St John’s Wood High Street and heard about it all at length. Even though she definitely hardly eats herself she was exhaustingly into the packed lunch campaign, probably because she has a live-in nanny who would make said fucking bento boxes daily. If it all kicks off and Hector demands packed lunch (inevitable) we’d have to get our old au pair Inma back in the loft to make it. Just as I was enjoying not having Inma floating around in her yoga gear every morning. Better than making a packed lunch daily though, which would literally push me over the edge. Natasha’s other issue with school dinners is that the kids shouldn’t be getting pudding every day: her exact words were, desserts just aren’t meant to be an everyday occurrence. Didn’t mention the huge part chocolate-bribery plays in my parenting.

Over at Minnie’s boarding school the big thing is applying to US universities. I’m blaming sodding Tatler for that piece about Why Getting Into A US University Is The New Status Symbol. Anyway, the school has jumped on it, and so has Minnie … even though she’s 12 — and not exactly academic, to put it bluntly — so the sudden interest in Harvard definitely has more to do with grim US Tik Tok videos, than any desire to specialise in the liberal arts. Or maybe it’s my fault for binge-watching Cheer in front of her last weekend. (Side issue: what happened to boarding schools keeping pupils at the weekend? Will tells me he only used to get two exeats a term when he was at Marlborough, and his parents were spared him the rest of the time.)

Meanwhile Lyra, alpha middle child, who would actually have a shot at Harvard, is now equally obsessed with the Ivy League because of her sister.

I’m grooming Lyra for my alma mater St Paul’s, with a view to Oxford (preferably Trinity, my college). Obviously, seven years is time enough for this fad to wear off, but I’m panicking slightly at thought of Oxford falling through and constant flights to Connecticut.

Minnie’s also complaining that we should have picked a school with en suite bathrooms (now the norm in many boarding schools). Will says we’ve created a monster. I’m secretly with Minnie, and wondering what we were thinking not factoring this into the decision.

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