On the surface, it’s an innocent activity that the teachers invite parents to take part in. But look deeper and it’s a quagmire of potential parental anxieties and legitimised voyeurism. What am I talking about? When class teddy comes to stay, of course. Rachel decided to give Polly Puffin a day to remember…
If you have a primary school age child, you’ll probably recognise this scenario. You dash to school on a Friday afternoon to pick the little darling/s up, mentally reeling from all the things you haven’t managed to get done before the weekend but hopefully having ticked a few things off your perpetually extensive list. Oh who cares, it’s Friday you think, already you’re mentally opening that bottle of chilled Chablis in the fridge… Oh look, there they are! Hello sweetheart! *Kiss kiss*… what’s this then? You notice they have an extra bag in their hands. Oh shit, this can only mean one thing: the class teddy is coming to stay for the weekend. Effing marvellous.
At home (enormous glass of wine already half drunk) you begrudgingly unzip the bag to reveal a rather mucky teddy – in our case a small puffin called Polly – along with a large exercise book that’s been enthusiastically filled in by quite a few families already, documenting their wholesome weekend adventures with the little
shit cutie. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to go first. Let’s have a look then…
If you’re honest you’ll admit that the last thing you’re looking at is the bloomin’ class mascot. Really, you’re having an enjoyable little nosey around the other parents’ houses – and a perfectly legit one at that! Oh, look at that fireplace, that’s nice… Erm, not sure about that carpet…Ooooh their garden is NICE… we should have a swing…
Back to the task in hand. What have they actually done with the toy? You know the drill. There are lots of cute stories of teddy’s activities alongside photos with your child’s classmates compliantly holding the toy aloft for the photographer to capture them together, always doing something educational, outdoorsy, or generally something to be proud of. Well, they’re not going to show teddy and kid standing inches away from the telly in their PJs on Saturday lunchtime, watching a rather violent episode of Power Rangers and scoffing down a Grab Bag of Monster Munch are they? That definitely doesn’t happen in our house, let me tell you. Oh no.
Right, what have I got on this weekend? you think to yourself. What nice, middle class activities have we got in store to take snaps of that will impress all the other mums and dads? Oh bugger it… Listen puffin, you’re gonna have to fit in around us yeah? I poured another glass and chilled out, deciding to let the weekend take its course.
With only one kid at home that evening (the other was enjoying a sleepover at her grandparents’) we thought we’d get a curry, so Arthur was thrilled to bits to be told he was having Madagascar shaped pasta with sugar loaded tomato sauce on toast. I took a quick snap on my iPhone of happy Artie and Polly eating said dinner at the ‘kid table’ in front of the telly. “What on earth are you doing?!” my other half rather alarmingly enquired. “You can’t do that! They’ll know we occasionally give him tinned pasta for tea! And it’s Madagascar-shaped!” “Who exactly are you talking about?” “The other parents!” he blurted, dumbfounded at my naiveté. “Oh don’t be so silly…” I retorted, feeling pretty relaxed half way through my second large vino. But then I started to think… “Hmmm maybe he’s got a point…”
Anxiously I flicked again through the booklet – this time I took a closer inspection to see what the other kids dined on when entertaining the bird. “Yeah maybe you’re right. Look… here she’s about to feast on berries!” Other pictures illustrated Polly joining in with the kid’s creative Lego sessions, playing the saxophone and guitar, another one showed a trip out to the circus. My pulse quickened.
OK. I’m going to step it up… I’m going to show this poor, essentially homeless Puffin the time of her Goddamn LIFE.
The next day we decided that Polly should accompany Mummy to Manchester on a girls-only shopping trip. No kids, noooo – this was big girl stuff. There was designer shops, pink champagne, chocolate mousse cake – it was pretty awesome. She confided in me that this was the best weekend she’d ever had. Hands down. In fact she asked if she could come and live at our house permanently. Really.
As I smugly perused the weekend’s pictures on my phone thinking my work here was done, the penny suddenly dropped that I had to print the buggering things out and stick them in the book. Unless you are the type of person who has a fully functioning printer at home (anyone?? no, thought not) then you have to arrange to get the bloody shots printed out somewhere else (husband’s work is my go to option). This is like homework. I don’t know about you, but on a Monday evening fast approaching Christmas I can think of other things I need to be doing at 8pm than writing a story about a stuffed toy who spent too much money in DKNY then flirted with the Italian waiters in Bottega after bingeing on champagne.
Some bright sparks chose to draw their weekend; I’m not even going to attempt to recreate our fabulous weekend using Crayola. It just wouldn’t do it justice.
As I washed the Pritt Stick off my fingers I thought to myself how much I had actually enjoyed the little bird’s company – it was way easier than taking the kids shopping anyway. Next time Polly, we’re going in even harder; there’s a fab new nightclub just opened up in Manchester where all the Coronation Street crew go apparently.
Imagine the photos of that weekend…