A prize pair

Isaac and Toby with their awards Isaac and Toby with their awards

Heather was collecting the boys from school on Friday when Isaac’s teacher suggested that she really should attend the prize-giving assembly on Monday.

Fellow parents will recognise this as super-secret teacher code for “We can’t officially tell you that your child has won a prize … but your child has won a prize.” (The Enigma cipher this ain’t.)

I like to make every effort to attend school events too – little moments like these matter, right? – so despite the fact it meant rejigging my day and spending 1½ hours in the car for the sake of just four hours in the office in the morning, I drove home to join Heather (and Kara) in time for a 2pm kickoff.

This is our third year, so we’re seasoned veterans of school events – which means remembering that if you want a decent seat (or indeed any seat) in the hall, you need to arrive early. Pitch-a-tent-as-if-you’re-queuing-for-the-Next-sale early. We arrived early enough to secure seats in the second row. Result.

There are also certain rules of etiquette that go with participating in this type of event, such as:

1. You don’t post photos on social media without the permission of everyone in the photo. This can be quite awkward when your eldest child asks you to sign a contract outlining his image rights before you post on Instagram.

2. You applaud politely for all the awards, even when the head teacher is reading out the interminable list of recipients of the Exemplary Attendance Award for not missing a day in the entire year, aka the ‘Well, I Was There, Wasn’t I?’ Award.

3. When your child wins the previously subtly hinted at award, do have the good grace to look suitably surprised, shocked and humbled. (It helps if you’ve practised this in the mirror first so that it appears natural and doesn’t look as if you’re having a mild stroke.) Do not rush to the front of the hall to make a pre-prepared acceptance speech on behalf of your child. And absolutely do not punch the air and holler “In your face, losers!” at fellow parents in your year group. For some reason, such behaviour is frowned upon.

Anyhow, despite having been tipped the wink about Isaac, we received a pleasant surprise when Toby was called up to receive one of the Foundation Year 2 awards for Outstanding Achievement. We knew from his report that he had had a good year – the comments about his hard work and effort pleased us as much as his academic achievements – but this hadn’t been something we had been expecting at all.

Indeed, ten months ago when he started school we were concerned about some issues he was having with his speech and his struggles to settle in during his transition days. Since then, though, his speech has come on in leaps and bounds, he has performed well in reading and maths and generally embraced school in the same way his more obviously studious older brother did two years before him. It just goes to show that, given the right opportunity, children are so often capable of more than we give them credit for.

Isaac won one of the equivalent prizes for Year 2. He’s been a regular winner of monthly, end-of-term and yearly awards in the past so this was nothing new but we were just as pleased for him as we were the first time he was recognised.

It’s particularly lovely that both boys finished the year on an equal footing too. There’s no scope for jealousy or oneupmanship and they have a rewarding, shared experience that will hopefully spur them both on to keep working hard in the future.

Kara starts school in September next year. I wonder whether she will follow in the footsteps of her brothers? Will our prize pair turn into a triple triumph? No matter what, as long as she tries her best, we’ll be as proud of her as we are of them.

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