When I heard that my daughter’s school was hosting a house shout my first thought was “if my girl’s house can’t win that then something is wrong with the world.” Her personal target for this half term was to stop shouting in class. She’s the house captain. The house points are in the bag for sure.
Then I was asked to judge it.
WTF! Can I say no. The ambitious mother in me is screaming NOOOOO, DON’T DO IT! YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO COACH HER WITHOUT TAKING ON MAJOR GUILT!!
I said no. I actually had a work booking. But then I found out the time of the work booking and it turns out I could do both (or so I thought but in reality my schedule didn’t work because there was an enormous crane in the road which I hadn’t factored into my calculations because it’s a stupid thing to leave in the middle of the road).
So then I said maybe….which got taken as a yes.
So now it’s a yes. I’m the North Kingston equivalent of Amanda Holden. I stop eating and start to cry at small children in the street. People throw things at me.
My child comes home full of excitement. She’s thrilled that she knows the judge. In her head this means she’s clearly going to win the competition.
“No” I say. “I shall be totally impartial” but in reality I know that unless her house is better than the others by a county mile there is no way my conscience is letting me give her that prize. I have to see the mother’s of the other kids every day. They are my friends. Some of them are my customers. I’ve been asked to judge because I have a reputation for acting excellence in the local area. This is what I’m telling myself. It’s not just because I’m loud and I was caught rapping by the Headteacher. I’m sure it’s not that.
I ask what criteria we’ll be using to judge the House Shout and the people I ask run away. I google it and I’m still none the wiser. I therefore prepare for the day by getting really drunk the night before with my friend Sue. This totally adds to my credibility as a serious actor.
On the morning I shower and wear loads of perfume and make-up, another actor trick (showering). Then I take the kids to school and hide in the car for half an hour before getting coffee and biscuits and heading into assembly.
“Are you ready Mrs Lewis?” said Mr Bond.
“Yeeessssss” I said. Then cursed under my breath. I meant to say “Ayyyyeeee” in the style of Ali G. A table appears from nowhere and we three judges sit behind it. In order we have..
Mr Bond – The Schools equivalent of Simon Cowell, except he’s nice. He’s also the headteacher.
Miss Georgina – a foxy Performing Arts diva who knows her aria from her elbow.
Mrs Lewis – a hungover wreck of a mother who doesn’t really know what she’s doing and unbeknown to her has to drive very slowly round a crane after this.
The first house steps up. It’s Rachel’s house. I’m nervous as hell. They get in lines. Rachel is nice to the people in her house instead of yelling at them. This is progress. They do their rap. They keep their rhythm perfectly. Their costumes fall off. They work together as a team. It’s actually really lovely. I’m impressed. Obviously I don’t show it! OK, maybe a bit. But not too much.
The next three houses got up and did their raps, and they’re impressive. Only one other house managed to keep rhythm. One of the other houses is more slick but soulless. One of the other houses in more funky – with pompoms. But all of the other houses has a teacher at the back showing them the moves!
Does this mean I can vote for my own child? They kept rhythm. They were lovely, and they did it themselves. I do believe I can! I check with the other judges just incase it’s the hormones talking – they vote for her house too, totally unaffected by hormones.
I leave before the end of assembly, shaking slightly from DTs and the adrenalin come down. There was a risk of losing a stable mother daughter relationship. It seems to have been averted. The paracetamol are taking the edge off the hangover. The sun is shining. It’s a good day.
What the hell. Who put that bloody crane there?!
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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. She is also passionate about helping and supporting parents through the early years and lobbying for a better understanding of them and the issues they present. Occasionally she also speaks up for the kids too!