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Hot House

Festive frostiness

Claudia Savage Gore feels a chill around the kitchen island

This article is taken from the December/January 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

So couples therapy has so far proved to be a royal waste of time. The only thing we’ve established is that Will feels that the schools our kids attend are “pressure cookers”. This, despite him having approved all three schools upon application.

He told the therapist he has genuine fears we may have inflicted trauma. All very “Scenes From a Marriage”, except I get to be the boneheaded competitive husband, while he’s the intuitively caring wife.

Hasn’t “north London parent” always been synonymous with “bat shit crazy”?

When the therapist asked him to elaborate, he started talking about Lyra’s eleven-plus coaching — which at two hours a day after school isn’t even unusual. I mean, does he want our daughter to end up at Portland Place? Then he said something incoherent about the “culture” at London preps contributing to a mental health epidemic among children and parents — whatever that means. Hasn’t “north London parent” always been synonymous with “bat shit crazy”?

This is clearly Talitha’s ongoing influence — Talitha being the nightmare mother he’s in love with, at Lyra’s school. Naturally the therapist was lapping it up, in between blaming the mother (that’ll be me, then) for everything. Apparently Hector’s elective C-section probably caused permanent damage. Don’t even get her started on controlled crying. No, really. don’t. I might cry myself.

Anyway, I put the couples counselling on hold (because Christmas), but as yet all we’ve achieved is even more tension around the kitchen island than before. Will has taken to sleeping in the playroom-cum-home-cinema, despite both spare rooms being readily available. No doubt the therapist would have a field day with this and his inner child.

The other upshot of couples’ therapy is that my relations with my in-law issues have tipped from frosty to full-on toxic. Basically, Will told his parents we were seeing someone, because he’s now all about “speaking his truth”. Naturally his mother went berserk, and decided this was my malign influence poisoning her son.

She even started to agree with Will about London preps (not that Hector could have got into anywhere like The Hall, but hey) and now keeps going on about the lovely “gentle” schools in the shires where “boys can be boys”. For “gentle” read: Oxbridge is never going to happen.

No doubt the therapist would have a field day with this and his inner child

We now have to spend Christmas at their house in Surrey, when every dinner will tip into talk of London schools being too “progressive” and the kids’ Kumon classes being passive-aggressively questioned at any opportunity.

The thing Tessa Cowper will never understand is that, despite the fees amounting to over a hundred grand per annum, there actually isn’t nearly enough pressure at the kids’ schools. Our nanny spent all last night crafting a Roman shield out of Amazon packaging for Hector’s “homework”. I mean, seriously? This is an eight year old’s homework?

Meanwhile Lyra’s head of year has assured us that she’ll have no difficulty getting into St Paul’s come January, and that the best thing we can do “as parents” is to nurture her self-esteem over the Christmas break with lots of “downtime”.

I asked for clarification, and got an evasive answer about the pressure that high-achieving girls put themselves under. The head then reassured me that the school was introducing a “Wellness Within” week, in January, to address early signs of tween burnout. Will was nodding along, delighted that the mental health epidemic he called was indeed “a thing”.

Meanwhile Minnie, boarding in the country, only seems to feel the pressure to post endless TikToks. Rashly made this point to Will, who said this was likely even more damaging than excessive Kumon. Yay.

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