Father's day

In a fast-moving world, children's work can change before your very eyes

It's 2006! Two thousand! And Six!? Can it really be true? The 21st century seems to be rattling onwards a little bit faster than centuries are supposed to. It seems like only a couple of weeks ago that we were still living in the maelstrom that was 2005, with its new Pope, new Tory leader, new Doctor Who and three - yes, three - new varieties of Airwick plug-in air freshener. When did life become so accelerated?

Of course, children embrace change. They are not enslaved to calendars.

Which is just as well, because I know of around 30 households whose 2006 calendars are not as they should be... It was the end of last term. I was preparing the surprise presents for the parents of class 3. The children had made exceptionally intricate clown faces from some kind of bizarre polystyrene-style imitation clay, delicately impregnated with beads, streamers and baubles. I was attaching these faces to cardboard squares, to be made into calendars. Simple enough.

But I admit I wasn't giving the process my full attention. There was a spelling test going on, and I felt obliged to join in. (Eight out of 10.

Not bad for a 37-year-old, eh? Seeing as I hadn't even learned them or anything.) Plus, it's not easy wielding a hot glue gun when your daughter has made you promise not to look too closely at what you are glueing, in order to retain the element of festive surprise in your own Christmas present.

Whatever the reason, by the end of my glueing session, I had 30 beautifully decorated calendars, and a table-top dripping with stray gems and sequins.

What to do now? Yes, I could tell where some of the beads were supposed to fit. There were hollowed-out gaps in the clay where I could glue them back on. But that still left quite a pile on the table. Gold studs and blue jewels. Ribbons and bows. Surely it wouldn't be right just to stick random decoration on random clowns, hoping the children wouldn't notice. But the way I saw it, these kids are going to be living right through the 21st century. Theirs will be a world of nano-technology. Perpetual energy.

Possibly even a fourth new variety of Airwick plug-in. The fact that their surprise Christmas present has miraculously transformed between school and home is valuable preparation for the everyday metamorphosis of modern life.

As I keep telling the kids: change is good. Change is the future. Stick the damned glittery bits back on and make sure nobody sees you.

There is one other small reason I keep mentioning change to the children.

We're moving house. And moving schools. But that really is another story.

Michael Cook is a freelance writer and parent-helper at Jesse Gray primary school, West Bridgford, Nottingham, which his children Alfie and Poppy attend

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