Father's day

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Michael Cook watches Alfie take a big stride across the playground

Alfie is leaving, twice over. At the end of term, he will say his goodbyes to Ernehale infants and say his hellos to Ernehale juniors. It's only 30 yards across the playground, but still a big step on life's relentless journey to maturity and sophistication.

Before that, he is leaving his mum and me for a three-day, two-night Year 2 residential visit to the wilds of Derbyshire. He was very keen to get his name down. At first, I thought this was because my weekly help in the classroom has broken down the barriers between home and school, and provided him with the emotional strength and support he'll need while he's away from his family. But maybe it's more because Alfie's going through a Famous Five phase. The boy craves adventure. If he isn't kidnapped by a wicked smuggler and locked in a mysterious dungeon while he's away, then it will be a disappointment.

As preparation for his trip, he's been asked to practise valuable life skills at home, like making his own sandwiches and turning his own quilt cover inside out. He's growing up. We see things at home that we've never seen before: improved co-ordination, growing confidence. And Marmite stains all over the duvet. Before we know it, the wilds of Derbyshire will be small beer, and he'll be jetting off to Ayia Napa to vomit for England, or backpacking through China.

I guess this is one of the unique perks of teaching. Where else can you see your charges change in front of your eyes, day by day and year by year?

Well, maybe it's not quite unique: at half-term, we went to the zoo. An audience at the gorilla enclosure watched a giant silverback at play. The keepers had left a duvet cover in the cage - a favourite toy. To the delight of the crowd, the gorilla popped his head into the cover, climbed inside, rolled around, and clambered out. Then, with practised ease, he stood on the edge of the cover, and flipped it inside out.

All this parent-helping and my child is still being outclassed by an ape. I wonder if they need Tuesday morning helpers at the zoo?

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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