There is a moment every parent with a child in nursery school dreads - and that is the moment the class teddy comes home for the weekend.
Such a moment hit me last Friday when I picked the girl up from school and was greeted with the sight of a really rather large Winnie the Pooh and a very excited three year-old who was filled with grand plans for the weekend.
It was, officially, our weekend with Winnie. I did have plans for the weekend before that moment - in fairness they mostly involved a bottle of wine and catching up with Downton Abbey - but still in that moment they were gone. It is inappropriate to be under the influence of a three foot high bear.
Instead, I thought, as I could feel the dream of the cool, delicious and crisp Pinot Grigio that I would no longer be enjoying evaporate before my very eyes I would have to be *drum roll please* a really good mammy. (Insert pause for dramatic effect).
Now I do consider myself to be fairly good in the parenting stakes but it when it comes to the Teddy Bear weekend “fairly good” just doesn’t cut it.
As much as I would like to distance myself from all notions of competitive parentings, there is something about such a weekend that ignites something in me - something deep, dark and primeval - a kind of mammy bear instinct to be the best I can be so that all the other mammies in the school and, of course, the teachers think I am just the bee’s knees.
To be exceptionally honest, it is probably the teachers I want to impress most. It’s 15 years since I last sat in a classroom of any description and there is a part of me which misses the praise that came with a homework well done.
So with Winnie the Pooh came a folder, which we were to fill with tales of our weekend adventures and with photos staged with Winnie the Pooh in a variety of poses. (Child friendly ones of course - not sullying of Pooh’s good name for a bit of a laugh with the girls).
I asked the girl what she would like to do over the weekend. She was aiming high. “The park,” she said, “to crunch in the leaves. Then Bananas - the big girl part,” she said with glee. “Swimming,” she screamed as images of a lifeguard performing CPR on a waterlogged Pooh Bear filled my head and the trauma that would be inflicted on my daughter if she drowned the school teddy.
Added to the list were baking and shopping, visiting her cousins, perhaps a tea party, read a bedtime story or five and maybe some time out in the car. My dreams of Downton disappeared as I started to plot the weekend away and think of all the photos I could stage.
My sense of foreboding, it has to be said, was lifted by the excitement on Cara’s face as we carried Winnie and his folder out to the car, “Don’t forget to put his seatbelt on!” she reminded me. “And don’t forget to buy some honey!”.
As I strapped Pooh Bear into the car I chatted to him, telling him to behave while she giggled and laughed along and although I felt slightly demented I at least felt content that we girl was happy.
And so it went on for the weekend - with my feeling a little red-faced as Pooh accompanied us on every adventure. We went shopping. We went for a drive. We even went to the Derry Journal offices where Pooh did some work - am pretty sure he did a better job than I do - which my colleagues would probably attest to!
We read, we played, we baked a honey cake (which may as well have been called ‘Diabetes, The Cake’), we visited granny’s garden and took arty photos with her tomato plant.
By the end of the weekend I had a very happy child who was reluctant to return Pooh Bear to his rightful place at school and I had a hoard of pictures waiting to be developed.
The uber competitive mammy in me even had several slices of freshly baked honey cake to bring into school for the teachers!