It is safe to say that when Lilia, younger of the Twins by one important minute, bounced out of school today, clutching the class mascot (Penny the Puffin) tightly to her heart, her proud Mamma (known to you all as the
Middle of the Darling Daughters) was rather less than entranced.
For those of you fortunate enough not to have experienced the Tyranny of the Class Mascot,
let me explain. For many an Infant School teacher, having spent the past week encouraging your child to live and learn, there must be a delicious feeling of payback, sending said child back home to his / her family with a very (un)welcome guest. One, moreover,
whose every action over the weekend must be recorded, in photographs and writing, in a Class Diary, the ultimate in Parental One Up Man Ship. (Is that one word - or four? Or should I just insert a hyphen or three?)
Such grammatical details, of course, will be important in the Class Diary - but nowhere near so important as a rich and varied programme of activities to demonstrate the fullness of life in the said child’s household.
For every parent looking forward to a restful weekend after a hard week’s work, the Coming of the Class Mascot is a wake up call like no other. When you are the mother of Twins, like the Middle of the Darling Daughters, you have to face the inevitable
not once, but twice over.
When my Foursome were littl’uns, the idea of having to complete a diary to record the weekend’s events (or lack of
them) had fortunately not been thought of. On the other hand, our weekend visitors were not of the inanimate variety but very much alive. I still quiver at the memory of the weekends when the class hamster came to stay….
“Nobody else’s mother would have him,” admits my daughter at the school gate, tenderly placing cage and hamster into her baby brother’s pram, “so I said I knew you would
be really happy to see him…” This daughter, I must point out, is the same person now voicing her apprehension at entertaining Penny the Puffin for a couple of days.
The thing is - and it won’t exactly come as a surprise to you to hear it (but whisper it in case Lilia is listening) - Penny the Puffin isn’t, well, real. The class hamster was very much alive. The big question was - would
he / she / it still be alive when we returned our visitor to the classroom on Monday morning? Oh, the responsibility!
By way of an example: “Do you
think hamsters like dolly mixtures?” observed one of the Foursome, watching as the Youngest of the Darling Daughters lovingly shared her sweets with our honoured guest. You have never seen me move so fast - then or now.
My daughters were always very good at volunteering me for extra-curricular activity. Take the annual task of cleaning the school’s three swimming pools at the end of each summer season. This
arduous task, the equivalent in classical terms of Hercules cleaning the Augean stables, involved much scrubbing and elbow grease, plus quite excessive quantities of Vim. It certainly wasn’t a task for the faint-hearted. Hercules, by the way, knew the
job would mean getting dirty and smelly but reasoned that sometimes even a hero had to do these things. I know how he felt.
Okay, I said, when the requirement
for volunteers was put to me by my eager daughters, I supposed I should do my bit for the school. I would be there if I possibly could, I promised. The Eldest and the Middle of the Darling Daughters exchanged worried looks.
“The thing is,” explained the Eldest, “that when we were asked in assembly whose parents would volunteer, we both put our hands up.”
“Which means,” added her sister, just in case I didn’t get the message, “that they’re expecting two of you…”
The Middle of the Darling Daughters is revising her initial reaction to Penny the Puffin’s weekend sleepover. It will, she has just realised, be the very last time after all. I’m not completely convinced. I have to admit
that I never regretted the last time the class hamster came to visit. As for cleaning the school swimming pools….
Hercules would have been proud of me.