Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
Tokiwadaira Kindergarten’s Undokai (運動会/Sports Day) was a success, and in my opinion, one with high quality! Clearly the kids and their families had a great time. When it ended, mothers (even with the ones we do not know) looked at one another and said, “Otsukaresama!”(お疲れ様/”You must be tired”) with mutual appreciation and teary eyes. We knew beyond any doubt that it was a job well done.
Preparations for the Undokai started almost three weeks before the Sports Day. Mothers of all five classes were asked to help out in these groups: “Child”, “Venue-Pageant”, “Tools” and “Communication.” Of which, specific duties were allocated and respective meetings were carried out almost every day (except Wednesdays), from 2pm to 4pm.
The primary role of the mothers from Yoji (幼児) was to assist the teachers on the actual Sports Day. With watchful eyes, these mother did a great job by ensuring that the children did not wander far from their class. They made sure that the students were wearing the right attire (hat or costume) for the right event.Before the Undokai, they prepared the Sports Day presents for every child. They added strings to the Hata (旗/flags), which were actually drawings done by the children. Then, a few of the fathers helped hung them high up in the park on the actual day.
Mothers from Kaijo-Pejento (会場 •ページェント) basically managed the stage. They made entry and exit gates to direct the children. They created the stage props and backdrops, and whatever that was necessary for the outdoor performance.
The mothers (including yours truly) from Yogu (用具) were responsible to create and maintain props necessary for the Undokai. We repainted the placard, which were signs with symbols of the five classes. We restored poster stands before mounting artworks made by students of each class. Then, we displayed these posters around the park on the actual day.
We took care of the Maypoles. The long ribbons were hand-washed, ironed, aligned, and tacked. We constructed the flower balls at the top of the poles. Holding on to the maypoles while the students danced during rehearsal and Undokai, was also part of the group’s responsibility. Making Shodobutsu (小動物), which were actually paper mache sculptures, was the best part of this job. We made several characters from Taro Gomi’s picture book – Little Turnip Flies Away and displayed them around the park, just to delight the children.
Here is the poster I drew, sticking to the Sports Day theme (Leo Lionni’s Swimmy), and it was used to direct the crowd to the “right” toilets in the school premises.
Mothers from the Renraku Gakari (連絡係) were responsible for the information board, to connect and make progress report of each group. On the actual day, they also patrolled the main venue and school toilets.
We have song practice sessions for the Undokai, almost EVERYDAY for twenty minutes before we picked up our children. With most of our time taken up, our class did not have much practice for our folk dance. Nonetheless, we still managed to meet at least five times. (A pat on the back.)
For every meeting, we had to take turns to babysit the children while the rest continued with their group duties.
One Saturday, a group of fathers came to volunteer in school. They did painting, built frames for some of the stage props, and did many odd jobs. Then, on the actual day, they arrived in school around 7.30am to move bulky items to the venue, put up the canopy tent, and help to hang the flags.
Doesn’t all the effort and selfless time given by these mothers (and fathers) to make the Sports Day a great success, touch your heart? Well, it does a great deal to mine. In fact, it melted my bitterness away.
If you are familiar with GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka), you’d probably understanding why I think that PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) are formed by pretentious mothers whose lives revolve around viciously protecting their mini egoists. So from the start, I didn’t want to have any thing to do with PTA, thinking that it will just be a gathering of insincere bootlickers stroking one another’s egos.
You can imagine my great dismay, when I realized that Tokiwadaira Kindergarten is a strong facilitator of parental participation. There is always a lot of meetings going on. Whenever possible, I’d try to “escape” because I find it stressful to lug my baby to these long draggy sessions. Of which, I couldn’t understand the language half the time.
Soon, I grew increasingly disgruntled. I was thinking seriously about changing to a Daycare instead. However, my three-year-old who had slight social skill problem, was starting to show signs of progress. He adores his teachers, and is getting used to his classmates as well as the class routine. These are important. So for his sake, I have to put aside my wilfulness and locked up my lone-ranger’s personality.
Honestly, it was really difficult. I was reaching my breaking point when I was given the Sports Day schedule filled with group meetings, song practice sessions, dance practices etc. I literally had to drag myself to the first meeting.
Then, something happened. A mamatomo (ママ友/fellow mother) from my son’s class, who is also a senior of the group (since this is her 7th Undokai’s involvement), proposed that I do the toilet map (see above picture). She knew that I can draw so I would enjoy doing it. And she was right. In fact, after I had completed the poster, I began to offer my help wherever possible. Soon, I found myself looking forward to these meetings. Curiously, the seeds of friendship began to take root one by one.
Without her, it would be impossible to enjoy helping out in the Undokai. She took care of my kids at home so that I could give my 100% to the group, without having to worry about my children. She was also the one who bought for us the Ekiben (Train station lunch boxes), and went early to the park to get us the best spot for watching the Undokai. お母さんありがとう！