A trip to Build a Bear is a birthday treat that has been bestowed upon all of my boys around their third or fourth birthday. For those who have yet to enjoy the pleasure this is an emporium devoted to extracting cash from indulgent relatives in return for stuffed animals and their essential accessories such as high heels, hot pants and One Direction sound boxes.
Today was the twins' turn and their indulgent grandma and I set out to furnish them with their very own tailor made teddies. This was the cause of much excitement as they leapt from bed screeching that today they were going to 'Buildy Bear Workshop', many times, at the top of their voices. Once I had finally calmed them down sufficiently to stuff them into their clothes we made our way to the shop in Covent Garden.
Step one of any such endeavour is to choose a bear, or other animal, to stuff. Now with small boys in tow you might imagine they would steer clear of the neon pink or sparkly species of teddy. Oh how wrong can you be.
Twin one is currently in the grip of an all-consuming obsession with polar bears so his choice was simple. Twin two selected a bear emblazoned in a 'tasteful' rainbow of pastel shades. This while the only other boy in the shop picked out a plain, workmanlike brown bear.
Onwards to pick out a soundbox to give their bears a voice. After much dickering over Cyndi Lauper's Girls just want to have fun and the aforementioned One Direction, the boys eventually opted for a saccharine American version of Happy Birthday that I already know I will want to rip from the poor bears' paws within seconds of them coming home.
Then the bears are stuffed and fluffed up to their full potential, at which point things start to get really expensive, because this is when pre-school children are let loose in a world of accessories for their bears. Imelda Marcos' would have been impressed by the range of paw sized footwear, while the range handbag and luggage options would put Louis Vuitton to shame.
Now while Mickey, the other boy in the shop, made a beeline for the extra small Arsenal kit for his bear, my sons were not to be fobbed off with something as dull and boring as a plain red and white football strip. Oh no, where would be the fun in that?
Instead they insisted on trying a whole range of sparkling dresses on their bears. After toying with a glitter pink T-shirt and tutu combo, twin two eventually fell for a plunging dress with a diamond sparkling in the deep, sequined cleavage and a layered, pastel tulle skirt. But what to go with it? We tried deep pink, sequined Ugg-style boots, silver pumps and sparkling Sketchers. But no, in the end we opted for toning rainbow sequined ballet flats. Gok would have been proud of the use of colour.
Twin two, who is usually the more manly of the two, was initially diverted by the superhero costumes for his polar bear. We browsed through Spiderman, Ironman, Darth Vader and Yoda, but the one that really caught his eye was Tinkerbell's dress in a brilliant lime green, complete with gossamer fairy wings and a wand. On it went over the bemused furry head of his bear, but it turns out that it did nothing for her.
Off it came with a dismissive flick of his tiny hand. This would not do. I scanned the rails until I alighted on a white dress with a decorative floral design on the bodice. 'Yes', my little boy squealed in delight, even better - it came with a veil. The next dilemma was the shoes - always a tricky area. The high heeled pumps he initially selected to ram over the poor bear's paws just looked cheap. Then we tried on some open toed patent sandals, but he just wasn't feeling it.
Finally he spotted some white boots with diamante detailing that set it off to a T. Add in two white bow on her ears and it was a done deal. Who said I would miss out by not having daughters? This was the sparkliest shopping trip I had ever been on, even if I did have to endure the rather pitying glances Mickey's mum threw me as we all queued up to pay.
Luckily this penchant for pink sparkles didn't come as too much of a shock as I had been softened up by my older boys, one of whom came home from Build a Bear with a pink unicorn with sparkly horn tucked into his very own pink handbag. Middle son's choice was outwardly more masculine as he opted for a brown bear dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. But when you take into account that he added on a pair of chaps and a flat, black leather cap, the final creation looked as if he would be right at home in the Village People.
It warms the cockles of my heart to know that despite the mountains of guns, stones, sticks and Lego that litter my home, my sons are clearly still in close touch with their feminine side.