When Class Teddies Come To Stay

Last week Diddy Dog (the nursery teddy) came to stay with us.

This was my first experience of hosting the class toy and I hadn't expected it so soon. I can see how the premise of taking a class teddy home and writing about its stay would be beneficial for an older child but an easily distracted toddler who can't read or write yet? Not convinced. Regardless, Diddy Dog was here and I for one wasn't fooled by his quiet ways. In fact I'd go as far as to say he was the ultimate nightmare house-guest: unannounced, full of expectations and accompanied by the judgey journal of doom where I would be required to record the tales of his adventures with us. I was relieved, of course, that I was dealing with a teddy rather than an actual living creature that I'd have to protect from that cat's savage clutches all weekend but I was still apprehensive. Despite my lack of experience, my first thought was 'shit, we're going to have to do something good this weekend now.' I knew that this sort of stuff probably wouldn't be deemed appropriate for Diddy's hectic social calendar.


Then I started to wonder, just how much time, energy and money was I expected to spend on entertaining a stuffed dog? Well, according to some people...quite a lot. One article on the BBC website examines the nature of the class teddy scheme and suggests that it has become less about education, storytelling and parent/child interaction and more about inciting competition between parents. Apparently photos of teddy baking butterfly cakes with granny or being pushed on a swing during a lazy Saturday stroll around the park are no longer cutting it. Class teddies are now being papped with celebrities or enjoying luxurious mini breaks. The Chronicle ran a report on one school that had banned the concept altogether after a parent took the one-upmanship a step too far (13.1 miles too far, actually) by declaring that teddy 'ran' the Great North Run! It seems like behind every signing off message that reads 'teddy had a great weekend with us, we hope he comes back soon' is a veiled challenge...'beat that, suckers.'

Maybe that sounds cynical and over the top. But the fact remains that schools are phasing class teddies out amidst claims that many parents find the process so stressful that they are reduced to tears. Although I personally can't imagine shedding actual tears over entertaining a stuffed toy, I can totally see how feelings of stress, guilt and inferiority could creep in for parents who happen to work weekends or who (like me) alternate weekends with ex partners or who struggle with English/literacy or who can't afford to do expensive, impressive activities at the weekend or who simply can't be arsed.

I did it myself. I flicked through the journal and scrutinised what Diddy had been up to with other families. I saw him eating berries with one child and wondered why Jack has suddenly got so fussy. He'll barely sniff a grape these days, never mind eat a sodding blackberry. I saw him playing on another little girl's jungle gym and cast a critical eye over our own back garden with it's dilapidated swingball and a lawn in dire need of cutting once all the cat poo has been scooped up. Another family took Diddy away for the weekend and I thought about how long it's been since we went anywhere. And none of these things would have made me sob into a bottle of gin at 11am on a Saturday morning, but comparing yourself as a parent (even over the silly things) and feeling that tiny jolt of inadequacy is never comfortable.

So I'm torn. On one hand I think it's a real shame that schools are getting rid of what is essentially a fun and educational activity for children just because parents are making such a big deal out of it. On the other I can sympathise with parents who feel that this is just another way of piling on the pressure and exposing their insecurities. I'm on the fence. And as I look at Diddy's cute little mush, I marvel at how a soft toy can provoke such intense feelings either way. Us parents really are proper weirdos.

Shit stirrer!!!

I'd love to know what you think. Has the world gone a bit bonkers? Is the class teddy just a bit of harmless fun or is there more to it? Have you had the pleasure of hosting the class teddy and how did you approach it?

3 comments:

  1. Love the photos...Diddy probably needs some adult time :)

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  2. That's what I told myself. Unsurprisingly, those pictures didn't make it into the jotter!

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  3. My daughter is in nursery and last year we had Paddington home for a week. We took him to Nana's house, shopping in M&S, made him a bed in a shoe box with a pretty blanket... and other than that he pretty much just watched S playing with toys and things.
    You're always going to have parents who turn it into a competition, but I think at such a young age the kids aren't aware of that; it's just fun for them to be bringing a different toy to the supermarket!
    Thanks for linking up with the #WeekendBlogHop!

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