Monday, 20 June 2011

Tiny Calendars

I have four children and they're all quite young. The eldest is twelve and the youngest is six. I love them with all my heart. They're beautiful individuals who I know will grow into adults that will contribute, in their own way, great things to whatever society they become a part of.
That doesn't mean that quite a lot of what they do is rubbish.

I'm not saying rubbish in a mean way. I'm not Joan Crawford. I don't want to undermine their creative efforts or stifle individuality as it struggles to emerge. It's just that, due to the law of diminishing returns, I find it increasingly difficult, to greet the contents of school bags with the delight normally reserved for a big pools win.

Don't judge me harshly. I'm eight years in to this particular sentence. With no prospect of time off for good behaviour I have another five years before my youngest heads for the dreaming spires of high school. Have you any idea how much shite can be generated in thirteen years? It then has to be displayed prominently on the rapidly dwindling wall space available in the kitchen of a three bedroom, semi-detached house.

Maybe there was a time, when a tiny calendar was of some use. If there was, I can't remember it. Perhaps people didn't have as many dates to remember in the seventies. I can recall the proud moment when I presented my mum with a piece of cardboard that had macaroni stuck to it. Not just any old macaroni though. Macaroni sprayed gold. One of the artistic world's true representations of beauty. As if that wasn't enough, there was a small paper calendar attached to the bottom. A calendar that consisted of twelve pages, each the size of a postage stamp, with individual dates printed on there in a font size more commonly found on the fifteenth page of your house insurance schedule. Dutifully, my mum stuck it on the fridge, congratulated me on my newly discovered ability and sent me on my way with a mouthful of neat Kia-Ora. She never used it, because it was useless. Every other tiny calendar, despatched from primary schools before and since has been just as useless.















I examined one that turned up a few weeks ago. I attempted, for the purpose of the blog, to circle a date and write something next to it to highlight the circle's importance. Putting a ring round June 15th ensured that I obliterated the 14th and 16th and writing 'dentist' took care of the following fortnight. That's no good to me. I'm not the busiest bloke in the world, but I sometimes do more than one thing a month.

Giving the calendars a good run for their money are the cards celebrating the festivals of the principal religions. It's a very good thing that my children have a far better appreciation of the United Kingdom's religious diversity than I did. At my primary school, if you were a devout Roman Catholic then that was absolutely lovely. Everyone else was doomed to inhabit hell for eternity with no exceptions, especially the kids from the non-denominational school down the road. Our teachers would always say, 'non-denominational' with a rueful head shake and a tone laced with fabricated sorrow at the fate that awaited those poor children.

Now, my children are mini-experts on the major faith systems alive in their school and we get cards every couple of weeks to prove it. There will come a time when one of them will ask me,

"Dad, why isn't there any food in the kitchen."

My answer will be that every available square inch of space is taken up with reminders that the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu members of our community have got something big coming up.

To give some balance, some of their creative endeavours have achieved the ultimate honour of being framed and placed in a prominent place. The little sketch of me that my eldest did when he was six was a beautiful surprise. He showed it to his mum in a lovely display of self-conscious modesty and i've treasured it ever since, as much for the moment as for the picture.

My daughter spent a couple of years daubing her bedroom wall with graffiti (and the occasional bogey). We used to tell her off about it, but if I was upstairs on my own, i'd go and have a look at it and have a little chuckle at her random statements. Before we redecorated her room, I photographed it all.

I love the things that children say and do, that's why we've got four of them. That, and a casual indifference to contraceptive science. It's just getting really hard to generate the required level of enthusiasm when the bookbag opens and another cardboard and pritt-stick monstrosity emerges. I'm tired of saying, "That's brilliant, son!!" closely followed by "What is it?"

I propose that the teachers and kids get round after each day's work and have a good, hard look at the quality of that day's production.

"Is it really, good enough. I mean really good enough?" the teachers will ask.

I'd like to think that those beautiful, switched on and bright young things will say.

"Actually, looking at it in the cold light of day, post-endeavour, it's a bit sub-standard, miss. The chicken beak thing is a bit clich├ęd for the modern kitchen. They were fun to make and we've burned a couple of hours, but why don't we do everyone a favour and quietly ditch them."


















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