This is Edward Bear. The cuddly, little fella is the class bear at L’s nursery and he’s been staying with us for the last week. Yes, I realise that I’m writing about a soft toy. And yes, I realise that he’s not real. However, despite this, the class bear sleepover has been one of the most stressful parenting experiences to date. Let me explain…
The first thing we knew about his visit was when L came home with an additional bag. It came out of the blue. We were not forewarned. We did not have time to plan. We didn’t even have any say in the matter. He just turned up uninvited with an expectation of free food, shelter and entertainment. Thanks nursery.
Our instructions were simple. Take Edward on some adventures, capture these moments and then put them into his diary. This would then form the basis of conversation in ‘circle time’ at nursery, by which his adventures – or lack thereof – could be shared with L’s little class chums to give insight into her home life. A very sweet idea.
Once we got home, L took his things out of his bag and we began to look through his diary. She got a proper kick out of seeing her nursery friends out and about with Edward. The more we flicked through the pages though, the more I realised the gravity of the situation and what the class bear actually represents.
I began to understand that this wasn’t a simple tool to allow children to share parts of their lives with their classmates. Hell no. The class bear is in fact a mechanism designed to bring out the competitiveness in every parent and provide a means by which we can harshly judge each other outside of the classroom. It would help prepare us for the challenges of having a child at school.
Instantly, I was sucked into the bubble. I found myself internally critiquing the handwriting of others or the fact that the photos weren’t cut out straight. Don’t even get me started on the parent who spelt “Trafalgar Square” with an “er” rather than an “ar” or the family that deemed it appropriate to illegally place an obviously not tall enough bear into a forward-facing car seat.
I also found myself playing the deadly game of one-upmanship. Just like every parent before me did and every parent after me will. I began thinking about how we could top the previous week and give the class bear a bigger and better experience – something I soon realised would never happen after the last family took him to Berlin! The best he’d get is a trip to Tesco.
I realise that this might sound stupid. However, if you think that, then you’ve obviously not yet had the pleasure of the class bear visit. Again, let me emphasise that I know that he’s a cuddly toy and not real. However, logic was thrown out of the window – incidentally, exactly where Edward Bear was nearly thrown during his visit.
There’s something about pressure that can get to you. Not only would we be judged on what we did with Edward, but other things would be judged too – our (messy) house, our (dishevelled) clothes and our (unwashed) car, for instance. We were under the microscope and I became hyper-aware of every decision we made.
This feeling of pressure was only magnified when it came to filling in Edward’s sodding diary. Our entry is how we’d be remembered forever. I overanalysed everything. How many pages should I use? Do I go with black, blue or even red pen? Do I print photos on normal paper or proper glossy photo paper? How many photos is ‘showing off’? Should I write as myself, as L or even as Edward?
It was enough to send me crazy. I may be a parent of two children, but I’ve realised that I’m not yet ready for real responsibility – like that of welcoming a teddy bear into our home and showing him a good time.
Despite the pressure, stress and trepidation, dear old Edward had an enjoyable visit. L loved having him around – he came with her everywhere and she enjoyed doing things like getting him dressed in the morning or getting him ready for bed at night. She’s never done that with her toys, so it was nice – and a bit weird – to see.
It wasn’t until he’d returned to nursery that I discovered just what a good time he’d had. He’d obviously been using my phone to take photos of his wild nights when everyone else had gone to bed. I’ve chosen not to include these photos in his diary because of the age-appropriateness of his escapades – excessive drink, illegal drugs, swinging, premium rate phone sex and illegal high-stakes poker – but let’s just say that the guy knew how to party.
Sound familiar? Has the class bear been to visit you yet? How did (s)he, and more importantly you, get on? Let me know below!