No one wants to play on the farm

30th October 1998 at 00:00
VERY little worries my six-year-old son. As long as he's allowed enough time to dig up the garden and bury his expensive toys, young Tom takes a pretty sanguine view of life.

School doesn't bother him too much either. He is indulgent towards these women who seem intent on turning him into a percussion-playing graphic artist. But, where he has drawn the line this week is at another class outing to Adventure Farm, his second this term.

Tom's teacher likes Adventure Farm. The playgroup Tom attended over the summer liked Adventure Farm. And when we arrived here six months ago I took the children several times myself. It's only five miles away, the admission price is minimal, Farmer Jolly's Helpers take the children round for you and there's a very nice cafe with newspapers provided for the grown-ups. The problem is one of overkill. "Not that bloody place again!" yelled Tom this morning as I dragged him to the minibus.

What should a parent do? I could save us Pounds 3 and ask for Tom to be excused but what kind of day does he have then, banging other people's glockenspiels and drawing his tractor pictures in a different classroom? He'll be the odd one out tomorrow, missing all the important stuff that everyone else will be talking about: like who was sick on the bus, how Miss spilled coffee on her paper and what happened when Dominic chased a duck.

But this is an increasing problem with schools like ours which seem intent on turning themselves into travel agents. Ginny's class is going to London shortly (Pounds 300) in order to study how much noise 30 girls can make in a dormitory and we've just had a note round from Sarah's school about skiing in the French Alps (Pounds 650).

Both girls want to go. Neither, understandably, wants to feel left out. But it does sadden me to think that I won't be the one to introduce my daughter to the slopes, as I'd hoped. I'm also rather put out that, because of the overkill, none of my children will go to Adventure Farm with me now. I can't go on my own. I'd feel rather a fraud as the only dad reading newspapers in Mrs Jolly's Parlour Cafe who hasn't half an eye on marauding offspring outside.

No-one wants to be the odd one out, after all.

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