Weekend with Barnaby

Essential Baby blogger Joseph Kelly
Essential Baby blogger Joseph Kelly 

Last weekend I had one of those weekends where it felt as though I was running at break-neck speed from late Friday right through to late Sunday. And all because of a stuffed toy bear.

In Maisie’s class there are a couple of on-going rituals. Firstly, every week one of the kids gets named “pupil of the week” in front of the school assembly and is rewarded for some particular achievement from the previous week. The second ritual involves a stuffed bear called Barnaby. Barnaby is the Grade 1 mascot and every weekend one child is given the opportunity to take Barnaby home and record his weekend in a scrapbook. Last week it was Maisie’s turn.

The first thing to note about Barnaby is that he is no mere gimmick. At Maisie’s school, Barnaby has achieved a kind of rock star status and is adored by preps and grade sixers alike. In fact, as I walked Maisie from school on Friday afternoon we were stopped several times by well wishers who just wanted to have a quick minute with Barnaby.

When we got home I decided to have a flick through Barnaby’s scrapbook. I was expecting to see prosaic shots of Barnaby cuddled up with some kid’s dog, Barnaby meeting other soft toys and umpteen shots of Barnaby and his adopted prep having barrels of fun. And while there were plenty of these shots, there were also, to my surprise, a host of shots of Barnaby enjoying the type of lifestyle that would make James Bond envious. Here’s Barnaby enjoying his first ski run of the season, check out Barnaby sampling the reds at an interstate winery, and is that Barnaby dining on mud crab in Singapore’s market district? It was clear that if we wanted to impress Barnaby over the weekend we needed to bring our A-game.

First thing on Saturday morning I made a makeshift papoose so that Barnaby could be strapped to Maisie’s chest and get a bird’s eye view of all the action. This led to Frances asking for up to half-a-dozen of her favourite toys to be strapped to her chest and, given Frances’s persuasive oratory technique, I complied. Our first stop was to an indoor play centre for a three hour photo-shoot involving some of Maisie’s class mates. The camera caught a carefree Barnaby whizzing down the slide, cheekily flying a toy helicopter and even tucking into a plate of chips with sauce. It also caught an over-stuffed Frances face down in the jumping castle with no way of getting up unaided.

At Maisie’s school, Barnaby has achieved a kind of rock star status and is adored by preps and grade sixers alike.

Day 2 saw us heading to the zoo to bring Barnaby closer to his kin. This produced more photo opportunities involving Barnaby fleeing from the tigers, talking animatedly with the monkeys and sitting precariously in the jaws of a life-size hippo statue. We had to bolt from the zoo to get the 100-odd photos developed before closing time.

After putting Maisie, Frances and Barnaby to bed, Susie and I stayed up until the a.m. workshopping storylines for our entry in Barnaby’s scrapbook. In the end we settled on a narrative that centred on Barnaby’s search for his true home with Barnaby desperately searching for his kin down slides, scouring the countryside by helicopter and even asking tigers for directions. The story ended with Barnaby finding he was at home nestled next to a sleeping Maisie. All of this was told over three pages of A3 paper and with the aid of a dozen photos.

When the sun finally rose on Monday morning and we packed the kids back off to school all I could think was how grateful I am that Barnaby only visits once a year. Entertaining stuffed bears is tough work.

Have you ever got too caught up in your kid’s school project? Are there rituals at your child’s school that you either love or loathe? Comment on Joseph's blog.