BBC Look East presenter Susie Fowler-Watt feels the need to return to her studies...

...before her daughter starts lecturing her!

Susie Fowler-Watt

BBC Look East presenter Susie Fowler-Watt feels the need to return to her studies – before her daughter starts lecturing her!

It had occurred to me – even worried me – that as my daughter grew up and started learning different subjects at school, my knowledge and know-how might come under some scrutiny. There are certain skills, like long division, for example, that I just have had no need for in the past 20-odd years. What are calculators for anyway?

I knew there would come a time when Lola’s homework challenged me as much as it challenged her. I just didn’t expect that time to come so quickly. She’s only in reception, for goodness sake! How can she learn anything I don’t know?

If asked about her school day, Lola won’t admit to learning anything. She will mention who played with who at break time, and produce drawings that she’s swapped with friends. But if I don’t ask, then little snippets or hints of what she’s been up to will come from out of the blue. And normally, they take a little bit of maternal deciphering.

A typical conversation goes like this: “We learnt about Sophias today, Mummy.” “How exciting!” I reply, fishing for time. “Tell me about them.” “They’re round.” “Ah, spheres!” “That’s what I said.”

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So, when she announced the other day that she had learned the word tessellate, my first instinct was that she had got it slightly wrong. I tried to think of what she could mean, and only got as far as oscillate, which she crossly dismissed. I asked her to describe it, and she started talking about how squares can fit together without leaving any gaps, but circles can’t.

At this point, I should have turned to Google, my default position for any adult queries. But, my daughter is four – I wrongly assumed I must know any word that she knew.

Poor Lola was getting more and more frustrated with me. She told me that Emma, her friend in year one, learned the same thing today, so I rang her dad, and asked him to check the word with Emma.

A few minutes later, he called back. Yes, Emma had said, the word is tessellate. He had then Googled it and found out that it means exactly what Lola had been trying to tell me all along. It turns out that she had taught me a word that I have absolutely no recollection of ever learning.The only saving grace for my hugely diminished self-esteem was that Emma’s dad had never heard of tessellation either, and when I went into work the next day and admitted my come-uppance, there was only one person in the newsroom that knew the word . . . and she has three children in primary school.

Oh, I know, there will be countless readers who have always known what it means to tessellate, and regularly use the word in their daily lives – but please don’t write in to humiliate me further. I have already grovelled to my (now smug) daughter, and self-flagellated over my arrogant assumption that I knew better than her. The question that’s bugging me is – what on earth is in store over the coming months and years?

The thing about children is that they have a strong sense that they are right and don’t mind showing you up to prove it. When a friend queried something her six-year-old daughter was saying she had been told at school, she was firmly put in her place: “Mummy, you’re wrong and Mrs Beech is right. She’s much cleverer than you because she’s a teacher!”

I still remember harassing my poor father after learning about the dangers of salt in biology class. Woe betide if I saw him add salt to any meal – he got a stern lecture on heart disease and high blood pressure. When the school showed us a video about what smoking does to your lungs, I nagged him mercilessly to give up his very occasional smoking habit, and wasn’t even afraid to use emotional blackmail: “I don’t want you to die!” He quickly gave in, and gave up.

So what will Lola be saying to Alex and me in years to come? “You’re having ANOTHER glass of wine, Mummy? But you had one yesterday! Don’t you know alcohol increases your risk of cancer, depression, and dementia?” Or “Daddy, you have to give up the sausages – just think what those nasty preservatives are doing to your body!”

Yes, I’ve realised it’s not just our child that will be getting an education over the coming years. But while she’s still learning to read and write, I think my main priority is to brush up on basic maths. Now, can anyone remember how to measure the circumference of a circle?

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