Goodbye, Steve the donkey


Every day I wake up with an impending sense of doom. Reading the news – which is part of my job – is not helping, even if I’m trying to avoid the post-truth variety.

Everyday family life goes on, though. Only son has been teaching us some good lessons in resistance. He has stood his ground in a most impressive fashion. He has withstood not only all my various tactics for getting him to take the role of Steve the talking donkey in the Christmas play, but also all those of his sisters. Steve is one of the main characters and the numero uno funny role. Only son does not like being laughed at in any way, shape or form. “The comedy role is the best one. Being a comedian is one of the most popular jobs around,” I said at one point. “I don’t want a job. I’m six,” said only son very reasonably.

I thought it was important that he learn to distinguish between people who are laughing at him and people who are laughing because it is a funny play. Only son does not get the distinction at all. “I just don’t understand the difference, mum,” he said in genuine puzzlement. “I just don’t want to be Steve. Stop talking about the whole Steve thing.”

Only son has been learning about resilience. He told me so the other day. I appealed to him on the grounds that once he was Steve and saw it wasn’t so bad, he might feel a whole lot better about doing such things in the future. “I don’t want to do it, mum. I am being resilient,” said only son.

Everyone else in the team was a bit disappointed at the thought of not being able to cheer on Steve. We have all got very much into this talking donkey role. Daughter one was reminiscing over her triumphant role as Monsieur Le Boulanger in Cinderella. Daughter two recalled her time in the spotlight as Aladdin and daughter three remembered her starring role as the first corpse in Bugsy Malone.

Only son’s head teacher rang on Monday. “I see you’ve been rehearsing the play over the weekend [I had written something to this effect in his homework diary]. He is saying he doesn’t want to be Steve.” Ah. I explained that only son is very adamant about the whole Steve thing. Maybe, for the sake of the play, it was best to move on and give him another role, I suggested. I was hoping it was Nigel, Steve’s cousin, because I’ve already bought the donkey costume off eBay, which is most efficient and unlike me.

Only son came out of class. “I’m going to be a camel,” he said with great relish. I told him that he would have to be a camel in a donkey costume. I could tie a cushion to his back. No-one would know the difference. His teacher beckoned. Apparently he had swapped roles in the rehearsals that afternoon and had been playing a Roman soldier. The camel was obviously wishful thinking. Only son was delighted with the role of [the silent] Roman soldier. Meanwhile, I was thinking how on Earth to adapt the donkey costume. Just add a helmet and a spear?

We got home and daughter one had a short philosophical chat with only son. “Daughter one says it is my life and my decision,” said only son with rather too much gusto. It reminded me of that moment in Matilda when she realises she can stand up to her parents, not that I would like to ally myself in any way with Matilda’s parents. I fear we have reached a turning point and only son now sees himself as being firmly in charge of all decisions that in any way affect him. Oh dear.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Photo credit: Wikipedia picture of the donkey from Shrek.

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