"Mum, can I bring in something for Show and Tell?"
Now, in general, I try hard to not get involved with things like this, it is the child's chance to talk about something that they are genuinely interested in, BUT I found my heart beating a little faster as I imagined the chance to Make A Good Impression with the school.
"Don't we have something educational you can bring in? Didn't we go to the Science Museum last year?"
"Yes we did. You said it was very crowded and you sat in the coffee-shop while Auntie Eithne took us on
the Space Trail"
"Well, it was very busy that day. Didn't I buy you something in the gift shop?"
"A tub of bright green goo"
"Does it have the Science Museum logo on the tub?"
I was clutching at straws and I knew it. I also knew that I shouldn't worry about these kinds of things. Teachers are amazing people who work so hard to equip and educate the next generation. I know they see the whole child and don't make judgements about parents. But after the recent fiasco about packed lunches, I longed for something that would redress the balance a little. As I have written before, one of the hardest things about parenting is the lack of feedback, and so I think it is just a normal emotional need, to look for some kind of external reassurance on how you are doing.
My eyes scanned Jack's room, looking for a suitable Show and Tell item. I don't know if Jack's room is a "typical" boy's room - he has loads of superhero dressing up stuff, Lego everywhere. I have even had to buy a bin so he had somewhere to keep his "weapons" which comprise everything from sticks he has picked up in various places to plastic swords and shields.
"I thought we found a fossil once. Isn't that it, over there on the floor?"
"No Mum, that's from where you were cutting your toe-nails the other night".
I was feeling a bit defensive now.
"Well, I was listening to your reading at the same time"
"Yea but in the contact book you called Mr Brown Mr Green, and the book I read was Beast Quest but you called it Queasy Best"
I knew I shouldn't try to control the situation. It reminded me of the last night of the summer holidays, as I had snuggled the kids into their beds on Sunday night, and Jenna had said:
"That was the best evening ever"
We had watched The Chipmunks, obviously written by someone who has a deep need to punish parents by making them watch 2 hours of hyperactive singing (Sorry, Chipmunk creators. I'm sure you are also very gifted people). We had also had our dinner in front of the tv. I normally try to eat with the kids in the kitchen, at the table, but on a Friday we have Family Movie Night where we eat in the lounge. Or at least, it is meant to be only on a Friday. During the summer holidays, it had crept up to much more often. For Family Movie Night we also have "treat" food such as Pizza ("..and salad! I now always say these two together, even if all Jack eats are the croutons and the bacon bits, it makes me feel so much better to say "pizza and salad"). On this particular Family Movie Night, I had lowered my (admittedly, already below sea-level) standards of cooking and we had had oven chips and Little Chicken Pops. Little Chicken Pops are extremely unhealthy tiny balls of apparently chicken, covered in an artificially flavoured coating. They are delicious.
As I was having this conversation with Jenna, I had suddenly panicked, as I remembered The Recency effect. This is where you are more likely to remember something that you have just recently seen or done. What if Jenna's new teacher asked the class to write about what they had done during the holidays, and Jenna forgot about everything else we had done, and wrote about this? Eating highly processed balls of fat whilst watching a film about four hyperactive wailing creatures?
I had racked my brain to remind her of some of the activities in which we had participated during the holidays.
"Didn't we do some baking this summer?"
"We bought a packet of cookie mix, but you only had to add water and Jack ate most of the mix before we put them in the oven so it only made 3 cookies".
"We went rock-pooling in Ireland! Don't you remember, you and cousin Keelin seemed to really enjoy it. Didn't you find some crabs?"
"Actually, me and Keelin were mainly listening to you and Auntie Eithne talking about Ant and Dec and how you that that weird dream where you were Ant's girlfriend"
At that point, I had given up, deciding that I simply couldn't control what the Jenna said at school and that I would simply carry on trying to do my best. And I would do the same with Jack. I gave Jack a few more suggestions but then left it to him. The following morning, we were getting ready to leave for school.
"Mum! I forgot to choose something for Show and Tell!"
Yes!!! I was being rewarded for not trying to control the situation. I bounded up the stairs and, with only thirty seconds to choose, grabbed a very educational-looking Children's Atlas. It had lots of maps and facts about different countries. Perfect.
"Will this do?"
He was a bit disappointed, I could see, but it was too late now to look for anything else. I totally forgot to ask how Show and Tell had gone later on, as Jenna had netball practice and we were looking after a friend's child for a couple of hours.That night, as I tucked them into bed, I remembered.
"Hey, how did Show and Tell go?"
"Great!" He was almost asleep already, but had a big, happy smile on his face. Well there you go, it just goes to prove that a geographical item can bring a lot of joy to kids. I bet all the kids were particularly impressed with the little flaps that lifted up to reveal the flags of the different countries.
"Mum it was great, I opened the book and my old ticket fell out, you know the one from Chessington World of Adventures, I told them all about time you bought me that big drink of blue Slush Puppy and then we went on that weird ride where we hung upside-down and I thought I was going to be sick and you used that bad word. Mr Brown wouldn't let me say the word in class but I told a few kids at lunch-time. It was cool. Some of them hadn't even heard the word before. Even the Year 5 boys."
Show and Tell? That showed me.