Our daughter was given the class bear to bring home this weekend. In the pouring rain on Friday night I viewed his arrival with less than elation. Carrying an umbrella over his head to keep him dry on the trek to the car, I wracked my brains for something he could do during his stay.
We were introduced to Spencer Bear at one of the parent meetings, and were shown his diary full of photos and stories. Easy, I thought, plenty of examples to follow. Wrong. In his bag was an empty diary, two story books and the bear. No instructions or guidelines.
Oh my, such responsibility! Our diary entry will basically set the tone for the year. Make too much effort and we raise the bar for everyone. Put in a shabby effort and it will be the first thing people see everytime they open the diary.
We didn’t dare take him to Ikea: imagine if he got lost. We watch Peppa Pig; we’ve seen the Teddy Playgroup episode where the bear gets misplaced! I couldn’t take him to my mother’s in case he came back smokey – I’m not going to be the parent that sends a smokey bear back to school.
In the end we took him to the park and I snapped enough photos to fill the entire journal. I’ll have to winnow it down to two or three. Then I’ll have to decide whether to print them on paper or take a disc to the shops and get proper photos printed. Do I write the journal or get my daughter to do it? Make it funny, entertaining, poignant? I’m the classic over-thinker – not giving me instructions is just plain cruel.
As we’ve reorganised our house today, and unplugged the printer and computer as part of the chaos, I haven’t actually done anything to take into school tomorrow. I’m going to use it as the perfect excuse to keep the bear’s diary another day and get some tips from the teacher. Add it to the list of things I never knew would create stress when I became a parent!
P.S. Came downstairs this morning and darling hubbie had plugged in the computer. I love that man. Pasted ten pictures into a document and added a short note about going to the park. Printed it out, took it into school and asked the teacher if it was okay. When she realised the explanation page was missing from the diary she was furious! LOL. Wouldn’t want to be the poor soul who was meant to put it there! She seemed happy enough with our effort, though, so I borrowed a glue stick and job done. One less thing to worry about.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“It’s for sale you know.”
Claire turned to face the woman who had spoken, unsure if she was addressing her or someone else. A lined, smiling face greeted her and grinned as she made eye contact. Then the woman gestured at the dining room around them, which was bustling with people getting breakfast.
“The hostel; it’s for sale. Such a shame, don’t you think?”
Claire nodded, tempted to turn back to her food. Then she remembered it was her job to gather information, and she wracked her brain for a response.
“The one at Salcombe is closing down, too. I guess it’s quite hard to run a business that’s meant to offer low cost accommodation in these old buildings. They must take some upkeep.”
“Oh yes,” the woman said, nodding emphatically. “Just fixing up my sixties semi costs a fortune, I can’t imagine what the upkeep on an old Georgian pile like this would be. Pity though. We’ve been coming here for years. It’s a bit spooky, but my grandsons like that.”
She gestured towards a gaggle of teenage boys gathered around the end of the table, stealing food from each other’s plates and shoving each other off their seats.
“There are bats, too, did you know? In the attic. Haven’t we all got bats in the attic though, dear?” The woman flashed another toothy grin. Claire smiled. It was hard not to like the garrulous old lady, and admire her for being there with her grandchildren.
“Isn’t it hard? Hostelling with children?” Claire thought about her conversation with her brother the night before. “I have my nephews joining me in a few days and I admit I’m a bit nervous.”
“You don’t have children of your own.” It was a statement, rather than a question. Claire shook her head.
“How old are your nephews?”
“Ten and twelve,” Claire said, flushing as she remembered getting it wrong on the phone.
“They’ll be no bother; it’s a good age. They’re not quite teenagers, so they’ll still bide you a bit. Make sure you wear them out and keep them fed: that’s the trick with boys.”
She emphasised her point by stabbing some sausage with a fork and popping it in her mouth. She looked thoughtful as she chewed, and Claire felt unable to turn away. When she was free to speak, the woman continued. “What will you do with them? Are you staying here?”
“No, I’m actually working – researching tourism in Cornwall – so they’ll have to tag along with me. I wasn’t expecting them you see; my brother called last night.” Claire stopped abruptly, unsure why she was telling this woman all her troubles.
The woman nodded knowingly. “Family: guaranteed to drop you in it.” She laughed at Claire’s expression. “Isn’t that what you youngsters say?” She continued to laugh, although whether at Claire’s surprise or her own joke wasn’t clear.
“What do they like doing, these nephews of yours?” she asked, when she’d stopped laughing.
Claire shook her head. No point hiding the truth. “I have no idea. I barely know them. They live in Geneva.”
The woman gave her a shrewd look. “And children aren’t really your thing? No, don’t feel bad or deny it. Motherhood isn’t for everyone. I have three boys, love them to bits. But if you’d given me a girl I’d have been stuck. No idea what to do with girls. Boys are easy; just make sure they know you’re boss.” She chewed another mouthful and Claire watched, mesmerised.
“They’ll probably be into those silly computer games. Make sure their Dad packs them and you keep them charged. Always useful for a bit of peace and quiet. I’m not one of these fuddy duddies who thinks they’re bad. Here in Cornwall, though? You’ll want to take them to the beach. Let them get mucky, take them swimming, enrol them in a surf school. That’ll give you plenty of time to get your work done. My daughters-in-law, they all work. Wasn’t the done thing in my day, but if that’s what they want, who am I to naysay them? Means I get to spend time with my boys.”
She looked fondly over at the teenagers, who had finished eating and were now wrestling on the floor with much yelling and punching. Claire shuddered. Suddenly her time with Sky – even the tantrums – seemed simple by comparison.
The woman looked back and seemed to sense Claire’s fear. “Don’t worry, my dear. You’ll be fine. Just think; after a week or two you get to give them back.” She gave her an arch look. “And it’s different when it’s your own. Don’t let your nephews put you off having babies. I’ve seen the hardest nut cracked by a helpless infant placed in their arms.” She lined her knife and fork up neatly on the plate and stood up.
“I must be going. Now these have been fed they’ll be up to all kinds of mischief until they use up some energy. Good luck, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Thank you,” Claire said, with genuine gratitude.
Once she was standing, Claire could see the woman was tiny; five feet tall if that. She seemed frail, like a strong wind would knock her away. She tottered up to the writhing pile of boys, a smile on her face.
“Right, you lot,” she said, her voice firm and carrying. “Up you get.” The writhing didn’t stop, and she put one hand on her hip. “Now!” Her voice rang out through the room, and the boys jumped to their feet, towering over the tiny woman. They hung their heads and chorused, “Sorry. Grannie.”
The woman turned to Claire and winked, then led the boys from the room.