Father's day

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Michael Cook learns too late to keep his exuberance in check

Mrs Henderson has a proposition: would I mind working with Boy X this morning? She doesn't use the phrase "Boy X", you understand. Boy X is, indeed, not his real name. Neither, as the perfect professional talking to the strictly amateur parent-helper, does she attempt to explain why I might mind. But I know why she's asked. And she knows I know why she's asked.

Boy X's behaviour is what a professional might term "challenging", but what as a layman I will call "naughty". I'm sure, in the league table of naughty little boys, he is several divisions below the Premiership.

As far as I know he has never set fire to the headteacher's car or hot-wired his neighbours' pets. But when Mrs Henderson asks him to be quiet, he is noisy. When Mrs Henderson asks him to sit still, he wriggles.

If Mrs Henderson asks Girl A to take the register to the office, he snatches it from her. If Mrs Henderson asks Boy X to take the register to the office, he screams he doesn't want to and rolls around on the carpet.

Boy X demands constant attention. He's more repetitive than the trailers for the new Doctor Who ("Tomorrow. 7pm. BBC1." WE KNOW!!).

So, when we sit together to write, Boy X needs to go to the toilet. Then he has to sharpen his pencil. Then he is concerned his pencil is too sharp.

"Let's get started now, X."

He doesn't want to do it. He's hot. "Take your jumper off." He's cold.

"Come on, X." He falls off his chair. He's done it before. It's too hard.

It's too easy. "Where are you going to put the first word, X?" It's boring.

It's not fair. Table 2 are making flowers. "When you've written this, X, you can make flowers."He hates flowers. He wants a drink. He wants a tissue. He wants me to stop calling him "X". "Sorry, just trying to preserve your anonymity."

And then, for no discernible reason, he writes a word. Another. A third.

And the fourth completes a sentence. It's taken half an hour, but I think my work here is done. And then, the sure sign of the amateur. I blurt it out. I can't stop myself: "That's great. Are you going to write your name on it?" And we start all over again.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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