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Ellen ArnisonFri 01 Jul 2011 07:00
Every time Scot Andy Murray mooches out for a big tennis match – as he will today – his mum Judy is there. Cameras catch her sharp, tense expressions and air-punching jubilance. She doesn’t smile until it’s all over.
Over the years Judy has scowled and cheered though thousands of games played by either Andy, 24, or Jamie, 25, sometimes both. Her sons’ tennis careers have been more or less her life’s work since they picked up racquets at about the same time they started primary school in Dunblane.
All the way through she’s been setting the pace of the route to sporting glory. When she chivvied her two sons into tiny tennis shoes and drove them to training; when she stood in a chilly sports hall; when she laundered sweaty shorts and shirts countless times, was she thinking of her seat at SW19?
Did her kids ever get to slob out eating sweeties during wet weekends or say I’d rather read a book than practice today, mum? I don’t think so. What about Judy? I can’t imagine she ever said “Let’s not go to training lads, I had a late night last night” or “your tennis shirt’s still in the wash, just wear your PJ top”.
She’ll be there again today, shaking hands with the great and good, almost tennis royalty. Almost. The difference is that the stars who show up at Wimbers to get photographed and because it’s a nice thing to do on a sunny afternoon maintain a cool, shades-wearing languor whatever happens.
But take a glance at Mummy Murray, she’ll be so strained you could almost twang her. Her neck, arms and face will be stringy with the effort of willing Andy’s spectacular form to last.
She’s a Tiger Mother from long before the phrase came trendy. This generation’s pushy parents – devotees of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother author Amy Chua – generally have their sights set on excellence in something perhaps more comfortable to sit through, such as classical music.
But, as Amy describes, TMs will do just about anything to get their kids to be the best. There will be no fun, free time, playing, junk food and friends, only practice, study, training, exercise and huge amounts of effort.
Of her parenting philosophy Amy said: “It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else.”
And it’s all for the children, every bit of it, she insists. “My main evidence is that so much of what I do with Sophia and Lulu [her daughters] is miserable, exhausting, and not remotely fun for me. It’s not easy to make your kids work when they don’t want to, to put in gruelling hours when your own youth is slipping away, to convince your kids they can do something when they (and maybe even you) are fearful that they can’t,” she argues.
Does that ring a bell with Judy, do you think? All those years when she had to push Andy and Jamie on, to make them competitive, where did she find the energy to keep going?
There must have times she thought: “Stuff it. I can’t be bothered to be a tennis mum any longer. I’ll let the boys take a gap year/ play in a rock band/ join the army/ whatever.” But she didn’t.
I hope Andy wins tomorrow, not just because “a British man hasn’t won since 1938” but because his mum Judy deserves it too.
Pushy parenting on the way to success