After my simian experiences from last week (https://whatsadaddyfor.blog/2017/09/20/getting-into-character) I ask my son if he wants to go into the class on his own this time. No dice.
So again I’m sitting in a circle with the group of P1 and P2 children who are peering curiously at me. I feel like Rodney in that old episode of Only Fools and Horses when he has to pretend he’s a child to get a free holiday. I feel like a plonker.
Jo, the angelic, patient instructor gives me a little smile. Encouragement or pity, I can’t tell.
She welcomes everyone to the class with girlish enthusiasm. Boy 1 asks her if we’re getting a bag of sweets this week (I’m keen to know myself, but didn’t like to say). Jo smiles.
We start by playing a game which is new to me. Duck, duck, goose. For some reason I can’t seem to grasp the rules and it quickly descends into farce.
What happens is that boy 2 walks round the circle tapping everybody on the head and softly saying ‘duck’, until he gets to me when he wallops me painfully on the back of the skull and screams ‘goose!’
I stare vacantly at him. Eventually Jo explains that I’m supposed to chase him. I half-heartedly comply.
Then I sit down again. Boy 2 calls me a ‘dimwit’. Jo tells him that’s not nice and asks him to apologise. He glowers at me. Jo smiles.
Boy 3 then walks around the circle tapping everyone on the head and quietly saying ‘duck’. When he reaches me he whacks me painfully and bellows ‘goose!’ right into my ear. I chase him around but it’s not clear what I’m meant to do if I catch him. I assume tripping him up is forbidden.
Jo persists with the game for a while but eventually abandons it when it becomes clear the children are simply using it as an excuse to whack me on the head. One of my ears is ringing slightly.
Boy 1 asks her if we’re getting a bag of sweets this week. Jo smiles.
Then she gathers us in a circle and asks us to guess what’s in her bag. Boy 2 suggests that it might be poo. Jo smiles. It’s not poo, it’s a toy rattlesnake called Rex.
She lets us all touch Rex, as if it were a real snake. Boy 3 asks if he can see Rex’s guts. Jo smiles. When boy 2 is holding Rex he says that a frog once pissed on his mummy’s hand. When Jo expresses scepticism Boy 2 tells her that his mummy then licked the pee. Boy 1 tells her that his mummy eats dog poo. Jo smiles.
She starts to tell a story about Rex. It involves him not being very good at dancing (no arms and legs you see). I’ve got empathy and nod sadly but Jo seems to have lost the rest of the room. Boy 3 is lying stretched out on the floor making farting noises.
Boy 1 has moved behind Jo and has picked up her phone. He is pressing keys manically. I decide I’d better warn Jo and she jumps upright in alarm. She tells boy 1 that he’s not allowed to be invasive. He sits down and gives me a wretched look which seems to suggest he’ll get me later.
Boy 1 asks if we’re getting a bag of sweets this week. Jo smiles.
It’s time to act out a short sketch now. I happily volunteer to be a dancing penguin. It just feels right. But everybody else wants to be a snake. She asks boy 3 to be a swan. He roars back ‘I hate bloody swans!’ Jo decides he can be a snake.
While we’re acting out the sketch boy 1 is rifling through Jo’s handbag. I decide to let it go this time. I do an admirable solo number as a tap-dancing penguin but it can’t save the sinking ship.
Boy 2 is supposed to be a bear. He’s lying flat under the table, apparently asleep. When Jo asks him why he’s not dancing he says the bear is dead. Our sketch concludes. Jo smiles.
It’s time for colouring in. Fittingly a picture of a snake. I try bravely but boy 3 tells me my picture looks like poopy pants. I’m a little hurt but I can sort of see where he’s coming from.
Jo takes the sweets from her bag and starts to distribute them. But it’s individual sweets rather than packets this week and boys 1,2 and 3 protest angrily. I’m carried along by the raw emotion and have to stop myself from yelling ‘I only came for the fecking sweets!’
Jo gives boys 1,2 and 3 another sweet but the tension in the room is unmistakeable. Jo smiles weakly.
Then it’s time to gather our belongings. Jo is handing a schoolbag to boy 2 when it becomes clear he is about to sneeze. Jo tries to warn him but before the words come his head jerks forward violently and a huge sneeze erupts right in her face. There are bits of snot in her hair and on her eyelashes.
I can see Jo fighting for composure. Trying to choose the right words.
‘Your mummy wouldn’t be very happy with you doing that’, she eventually says, wiping little specks of green from her face.
‘My mummy told me to do it!’ boy 2 fires back without missing a beat.
Jo tries to smile. She can’t quite manage it.
The class is over. Parents are outside in the corridor, waiting to pick up their children. For a moment I look enquiringly up and down before I remember I’m supposed to be the parent.
I see Jo as I’m walking with my son to the car.
‘See you next week,’ I say brightly.