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When the School Bear Came to Stay

Like many schools and nurseries, Siena’s school has a lovely tradition of letting the kids take the ‘school bear’ home as a reward for good behaviour or achievement at school. The bear in Siena’s reception class is called Barnaby and he usually comes home in a big black rucksack, and of course a large diary so that the parent can fill it with fabulous adventures and glossy magazine style photos of said adventures. Until that is, Barnaby comes to visit our house…

I have to admit that Siena is usually more excited than I am to have Barnaby over for the night, which I suppose is the whole point. For me, it usually falls on a school night when I have the dullest evening planned and I have to try to make it all sound as glamorous and exciting as the other parents do.

There is the question of what goes in the book and what is the reality:

Book Entry 1

‘I came home with Siena today (we always write it as if it is Barnaby speaking, this is one clever bear!)  she was so excited to bring me home and have some adventures at her house.’


Mum was really flustered having only made school pick-up by the skin of her teeth and was immediately filled with dread at seeing the ominous black  Barnaby rucksack on her daughter’s back. She pondered how she would make a rather dull evening sound scintillating, as her daughter chattered on about what a fun time lay ahead of them.

Book entry 2

‘I was so happy to be home with Siena again. We played with her cars and dinosaurs for ages.’ 


Mum leaves Siena and Barnaby to play in the lounge whilst she rushes madly round trying to fit all the housework in before the others return home from work and school. Mum works from home, she is not a slattern. Mum scours the cupboards for something exciting to have for tea.

Book Entry 3

‘Siena’s sister Grace returns from school and we all play, it’s such a lot of fun. We play Hide and Seek, Siena’s sister is really good at hiding.’


Siena’s sister returns from school after a trying day with her peers. She is not remotely interested in playing with Barnaby and Siena and tells them to get out of her room whilst she is trying to catch up with the Kardashians. This ends up in a total melt-down from Siena and Mum trying to placate the child, whilst also attempting to conjure some kind of Cordon Bleu worthy meal, make husband cup of tea and answer door to random people trying to sell double glazing/wall insulation/tree surgeon services. It is only 5.15, it’s going to be a long evening.

Book Entry 4

‘We all sit down to tea (Siena’s family are northern and use the local colloquialisms). It’s a very exciting tea of Surprise Spaghetti Bolognese and it is very tasty.’


Mum finally finds a frozen Tupperware container in the freezer which she hopes is Bolognese but as she never labels anything, it will have to be a surprise. Pasta is boiling away merrily, but upon defrosting and the sighting of some dark objects in the Bolognese (which turn out to be kidney beans), Mum realises it is in fact chilli! This becomes irrelevant as Mum racks her brains trying to remember when she actually made and froze chilli and googles ‘how long does frozen chilli last in the freezer?’ Mum removes kidney beans and serves up Surprise Spaghetti Bolognese, luckily only the 13 year old is wise to the ruse and everyone eats up heartily.

Book Entry 5

‘After our yummy tea, we go up for a bath. We have lots of fun splashing in the water.’


Mum checks Siena’s hair for nits and curses the parent who ever let her child get infected in the first place. Hair is nit-free thank God as Mum cannot face an evening of Hedrin and combing. Siena gets into the bath after a stand-off about whether or not Barnaby can also get in the bath (he can’t). Whilst Mum is distracted (but still present in the bathroom) Siena manages to pour an entire jug of water out of the bath and onto the floor, Barnaby falls into the water and spends the rest of the bath drying on the radiator whilst Mum marvels at how much and how far a small jug of water can spread over a wooden bathroom floor.

Book Entry 6

‘We have a lovely sleep in Siena’s bed and wake up ready to go to school. I’ve had a lovely time at Siena’s house and can’t wait to go back again.’


Mum is woken up at 4.44am by a chirpy Siena and Barnaby who are both desperate to go downstairs. As Mum only got to sleep at 1am due to a certain snorer next to her, she is not feeling the morning joy. By 5.32 and multiple failed attempts at getting the two-some to go back to sleep Mum admits defeat and goes downstairs. Barnaby and Siena sit on the sofa eating breakfast posing for an obligatory photo. Mum fires up the printer which is refusing to connect to the wi-fi whilst simultaneously trying to iron school shirts and make sandwiches (yes, she knows she should have done this the night before, but she was exhausted and quite frankly optimistic about getting stuff done in the morning whilst forgetting that she needed to print the photos and write up the whole Barnaby experience, OK?!!).

At precisely 7.22 the eldest daughter shouts down that she has no black socks and Mum goes to get some out of the dryer in the garage. Upon reaching the garage Mum remembers that she forgot to put the dryer on last night and resorts to drying school socks with a hairdryer whilst begging the four year old to get dressed and start cleaning her teeth. By 8.30 Mum feels like she has already done a full day and she takes Siena to school. It is only as they are halfway down the road that the four year old wails ‘Where’s Barnaby?’ By this point Mum has lost the plot, but is trying to remain calm. She rescues the bear from the porch and they march to school as fast as they can. Siena greets the teacher and tells her what a great time Barnaby has had. Mum smiles and returns home, and hopes they won’t have Barnaby for a long while, a very long while.


It’s funny how we edit life to give the best impression. Perhaps next time, I’ll write what really goes on!

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