Sunshine, cake stalls and hoping other parents won't notice how much Pimms you're drinking: July is the month of school sport's day.
In the UK, this often means a series of races run from one end of a bit of grass to the other, followed by ice cream. And that's it. Relays, the egg and spoon, the sack race and the obstacle course are all completed without a winner or loser, as many schools have decided that sporting competition is not a good thing. There is no 1st, 2nd and 3rd badge. There's no leaping on the podium, waving joyfully to your mum. It's too cruel for a child to lose, so many now celebrate only the taking part, and the doing of our very best.
In our classrooms, competition is king. We test our children constantly and their academic performance is scored, sometimes weekly. They know exactly how they are doing in relation to an objective measure as well as by comparison with their peers. In one way or another, at the end of every term, they are held to account for their progress.
Some kids are very good at sport. Yet come the time they should shine, there is an about face of astounding proportions in which we claim that it's the taking part that matters, life is not a competition, and good sportsmanship is all. When they should be (*gasp*) learning how it feels to be top of the class, they are patting everyone else on the back and claiming the race was just jolly good fun.
Why have we downgraded sport to the status of a hobby, manipulated to teach particular life lessons? Is it not possible to teach children that Maths or English tests are all about taking part and doing your very best? These attitudes should shine through in every lesson a child is taught, not just one. It is a nonsense that many schools have now fallen into and it needs to end.
But here's the bit that really makes me laugh:
At the end of the day, there's often a parent's race. All thoughts of sportsmanship dissolve as Alpha Males and Competitive Bitches whip off their afternoon clothes to reveal lycra and running shoes. I swear without a word of a lie I once saw a mother with a stop-watch checking to see if she'd beaten her personal best as she crossed the finish line. Fathers have been known to telephone the school office several months in advance to confirm the exact nature of the race and get in training.
Several schools in my area have stopped parents' races altogether and discreet enquiries reveal that fierce competition was the main cause.
It's my kids sport's day soon. You'll find me hiccoughing gently in the Pimms tent until sanity has resumed its seat.