class teddy cover

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…

11 comments on “Don’t you just LOVE it when… class teddy comes to stay?”

    • Oh well you need to do something suitably impressive and wholesome. I suggest a few pictures taken of cheerful vegetable eating and possibly a cultural activity or something involving the National Trust… Well, either that or take the p*ss as I did and take it off somewhere highly unsuitable, maybe clubbing with a debauched after-party thrown in for good measure?? Good luck! XX

  1. I loved this, Rachel. Loved your taking the piss approach. Treating Polly to a girly day out was a stroke of genius. I was incensed when Barney Bear turned up – totally uninvited with no notice – a few weekends ago. I was already gutted that I had to send David and the kids out without me all day Saturday so I could get on with (proper actual paid) work and then I bloody well had to stay up till past midnight on Sunday night writing a fictional account of a stuffed toy’s adventures. It wasn’t as if there was even any educational value for Ally – she’s barely literate and she was in bed anyway. I toyed with writing a grumpy, sarcastic rant about how *gritted teeth* thrilled we were to have an ursine house guest foisted on us but decided that wouldn’t make me popular with Ally’s teachers (and I SO want them to like me!) but I also refused to partake in any ghastly middle-class one-upmanship along the lines of Barney helping Ally to bake wholesome not-quite-nice-enough-to-be-cakes with the grated contents of our Abel and Cole box, followed by a jaunt to some frightful National Trust ‘Climbing Trees Like the Victorians Used to Morse Code Workshop’. In the end – desperate people pleaser that I am – I decided to set a precedent for all the other parents that it’s OK to describe a bog-standard, mundane weekend with even a bit of crap parenting thrown in. So I wrote a cheerily humourless account of a trip to the park in the drizzle – and I even admitted that Barney and Ally had watched a slightly violent film – all in language that even fucking Biff, Chip and Kipper would understand and then congratulated myself on not making the whole thing all about me… Somehow I think even that was impossibly middle class though. I think the only truly non-middle class response would be not to spent 48 hours agonising over it and coming up with a Bear Strategy and just write any old crap. Or even better just not do it…

  2. I feel your pain – not three weeks since we had to entertain Ramon the Rabbit, now bloody Phoenix the Phonics bear (I kid you not) has turned up unannounced and looking for a good time (with academically stimulating phonics-related activities no doubt). He’s going to have to make do with a trip to the Co-Op and Sunday morning footy in the rain, sadly. Still, if he has a crap time maybe he’ll specifically request he and his other furry freeloader mates don’t come to this free B&B any more. One can but hope …

  3. When our class bear came to stay, I was due to spend a weekend visiting lovely middle class friends and anticipating lots of happy photos of rock climbing, rowing and nutritious picnic activity (which we rarely, if ever, indulge in when at home). Imagine my joy on returning home to discover said friend’s husband (for a jolly jape) had deleted the photos on my phone but thoughtfully replaced them with photos of the class bear a) hanging out of a window bv one leg b) tied up and placed in a microwave and c) blindfold in front of the wheels of his car.

    Still waiting to get my revenge!

  4. I hate those wretched things coming home. Once a really filthy bear came home from one of them. It was so bad that I put it straight through the washing machine & I wrote about its washing machine trip in the diary book! I even drew a pic of it in the machine.
    Another time I had no idea what to do & didn’t fancy chasing around all weekend just to impress other parents. Luckily the kids bust a bean bag and the white polystyrene balls went everywhere. I put the bear in the middle of them and said what a naughty bear he had been and had pics of him having to clear it all up. My kids found it hilarious, hope the teacher did too when she had to read it out to the class. I don’t think I’ve ever taken it very seriously and luckily it’s meant that the bear only usually makes one trip to our house and doesn’t come back again later on in the year!

  5. Just think of the amusement it gives us teachers! Sending Barnaby Bear home was always intended as a writing activity for the child – adding a bit more interest to the traditional ‘recount of my weekend’ homework. Before digital cameras the task was far less competitive.
    During my career there has been a shift from ‘Me and Barnaby helping Mummy hoover,’ with a heart warming drawing to ‘Here is Barnaby in the House of Lords with Grandad – a high court judge.’ We find it even funnier when the child has not only not been present for Barnaby Bear’s outings but, has not had any involvement in the write up either. Some of my other favourite entries include, ‘Here is Barnaby surfing with my Dad’ with a photo of a rather more toned and tanned dad than I had expected. I did consider that he might be flirting with me until two weeks later when we got a picture of Barnaby Bear at the beach someone’s mother in a bikini and not a child in sight.
    Funnily enough, while some of my infant colleagues have put Barnaby Bear to rest, due to the competitiveness of parents, many more teachers decided to bring out their own toy and diary combination. What was traditionally an infant homework task suddenly became a whole school project. I can only assume the teachers in Year 5 and 6 felt like they were missing some of the fun. After all, it’s not just the parents who enjoy a bit of a gossip about nice fire places and dodgy carpets and, as a friend of mine put it, it’s always better to know what you’re dealing with at parents’ evening!

  6. A relative and their children brought the class bear when they came to visit us for a weekend for a family birthday. We showed the bear having a VERY good time with lager, finishing up handcuffed in the back of a police car (another relative is a traffic cop).
    I don’t think that bear will be getting back to Scotland….

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