This weekend, we had an unexpected house guest by the name of Sam.
I say unexpected. For the past 30-odd-ish weeks, every Friday morning, without fail, E has excitedly announced over her cheerios, ‘Mummy, I really think that today will be the day that Sam will come and stay’.
Sam is a rabbit. The class bunny. Not a real one I might add (thank god, else our resident Jack Russell may have taken objection). Sam is a cuddly toy, that comes with its own rucksack, as well as various outfits, shoes, roller skates (yep – roller skates) and hairbrush.
E is in the first, or foundation, year of primary school and her class teacher gives out awards on a daily and weekly basis, to encourage good behaviour and hard work. So far E has been Achiever of the Week, Superstar of the Day, Phonics Champ and Superstar Writer. Not forgetting good ol’ Tidy Up Trevor the Turtle – given to the tidiest child of the day. But none of these come close to competing with Sam Rabbit in the popularity stakes. At the end of each Friday Sam is given to a child that has been exceptionally good and kind, to take home and look after for the weekend. Perhaps it’s the sense of healthy competition, or maybe it’s just those roller skates, but suffice to say they all want the bunny.
You see this isn’t just any old cuddly toy. Sam originates from a place that instils dread into most parents. A black (or perhaps rainbow coloured?!) hole found on high streets up and down the country that has the ability to draw small children and their naive parents inside and empty their wallets and sanity quicker than you can say ‘run rabbit run’. I’m talking about the phenomenon that is Build-a-Bear, the place you can stuff your own teddy bear (complete with its own ‘heart’) and kit it out with more clothes than a Kardashian kloset.
So when Sam finally graced us with its presence on Friday, it was quite a momentous occasion. It comes with a selection of boy and girl outfits, so that the lucky child can choose a preferred bunny gender for the weekend. Sam was Samantha for our weekend. Her already extensive wardrobe dramatically expanded when E realised she could squeeze her into Baby Annabel clothes, including onesies, pyjamas, tutus, princesses dresses and more.
Actually, Sam picked a winner in terms of weekends. It was Daddy’s birthday, so Sam joined in with blowing out the birthday cake candles, came out for a celebratory Chinese dinner, and helped open his presents.
On Saturday Sam joined E for her swimming lesson and a sleepover at Nana’s house.
Sam even helped her learn to ride her bike without stabilisers for the first time on Sunday.
Like any true fashionista who spends her weekend partying with new friends, Sam wants to tell the rest of the world what she’s been up to. Part of the Sam deal is adding photos and a report of what she has been doing to her own personal diary. This basically translates as the parent spending all weekend taking photographs of a stuffed rabbit, frantically googling ‘where can I print photos instantly’ on Sunday afternoon, then traipsing to Boots to spend the best part of a tenner getting a dozen photos developed. This is followed by desperately trying to write a witty bunny-fied report about where the thing has been and what it’s been up to before returning it to school on Monday.
I’m joking about this but I actually think the concept is a wonderful idea. It was amazing watching how responsible E was with Sam, she wouldn’t let her out of her sight for most of the weekend. It made me realise what a good idea these class incentives for young children are, it gives them something to work towards and encourages a little bit of healthy competition. Being awarded Sam Rabbit isn’t based on academic achievement like some of the other class awards, it’s about showing kindness and being a good person. The fact that Sam comes with her own ‘story’ also encourages the child to be creative by wanting to add to the adventures. Yes, it can be a bit time-consuming for parents having to take photos and write in the diary, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it and it’s no real hardship. I already take plenty of photos and writing is what I do.
The problem was that E had so much fun bonding with Sam she then decided that she didn’t want to give her back. I had a very emotional Sunday evening spent consoling, cuddling and explaining how Sam needed to go and share her sense of adventure and fashion guru advice with the next child.
Stupidly, in the midst of all this, I may have let slip the possibility of acquiring our own Sam Rabbit. Which now means a trip to bloody Build-a-Bear is on the horizon. Damn rabbit.