The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Stars of Stage and Home

on June 13, 2015

Last month #3 joined her two older siblings and started school, well I guess it’s more pre-school. She goes just two mornings a week and she loves it. Why wouldn’t she when she gets to play with so many peers her own age doing fun stuff. Fun stuff like painting with your feet, making fruit kebabs and singing and dancing.

The toilet and sink is just the right height for doing your business. As are the table and chairs just the right size to sit down with your friends for a bit of sticky glue and paper activity. It’s you Grown Ups who don’t fit in here with your too long legs and too big bum for the toilet seat.

The day your youngest child starts school, even for just a couple of mornings, can be a bittersweet moment. On the one hand you are looking forward to this moment of freedom where you can have some time to do as you please. Just for yourself perhaps. Like enjoying a peaceful coffee and an uninterrupted thought. A late breakfast with a friend without the distraction of a small person eating from your plate. Watch a day time screening of a film if you dare be so bold. Because school is one of the very few places for them to be whilst they are not with you that doesn’t induce copious amounts of guilt.

And yet when your youngest starts school, there’s that part of you that has to relinquish complete claim to them. As soon as they start school, they have this whole other life that we are not fully privy to. The games they like playing, the arts and crafts they do, the friends they are making, how they behave without you and the teacher that comforts them when they get upset.

#1 and 2 can’t remember the days when they first started school and their classroom was up the stairs of this converted black and white house down a winding lane in the midst of plenty of greenery. Quite a rare find in Singapore. #1 has been attending this school for almost three and half years and #2 for almost two and a half years. I’m glad that #3 gets to have the same opportunity to experience this charming school with such caring, nurturing teachers.

As #1, 2 and 3 are fairly close in age, it means that in two years time all three will be in full time education. Which wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to pay for their education but as we do, it’s not quite the holiday to look forward to. But that’s by the by. What I mean to point out is that it’s only been three and a half years since #1 reached this milestone of starting school. When for us as parents it seemed like such a big deal, worrying over how they will cope with the separation for the 4 hours if that. Having your mobile phone on LOUD just in case the school called and you had to rush back urgently to pick them up. Whether they would cope starting off on three days or whether we should ease them in gently with two.

But really, was this about them or us as parents.

Of course as we saw the possibility of some free time/time alone/free time to do chores alone was almost within reach, we naturally wouldn’t want the phone to ring. And as much as the smiling, kindly teacher said they would let you know if your child was sobbing hysterically so you could come back IMMEDIATELY to comfort them because only you can, I now realise that this was never going to happen. Their cunning plan is to say they will but really they won’t.

And after a while, on the days much later on and you are no longer first time parent dropping off your first child at school, and your #1 or 2 or even 3 is attached to you like Self Stick, you are able to prise them off you and hand over them to the smiling teacher. Ready to make a run for it because you know they’re never going to call, unless there’s been a medical emergency, and besides they are far more experienced than you in dealing with the Self Stick Child behaviour.

And so for #3, who has been coming to school with me at drop off and pick up ever since she was a newborn, I would say she was more than ready for her star turn to start school. To be the one who has her own school bag, water bottle and snack box and who has to find her cubby hole with her photograph on it to put away her shoes. And to annouce that she too has to go to school.

And I, for the final time in dropping off a child for their first day of school, felt the anti climax of how easy it was for #3 to skip off upstairs to her classroom. Where her teachers will soon be the ones telling me new things that she can do and how funny she was that day. Of course I want her to be happy and enjoy herself. But at the same time, I’m allowed to admit that it’s not easy letting go of someone you’ve spent all those months and years with. I know it’s only been two years and seven months but when was the last time you spent this much time with one person?

And to be fair to #3, it’s almost like she senses she ought to show me some semblance of loyalty. For every time I drop her off at school, she climbs the stairs happily to her classroom escorted by #1 and 2. Then at the very last moment, she does some crying in token protest whilst reaching out, not to me but towards her teacher. I like how she tries to cry to make me feel better that she really can’t bear to be apart from me but the fact she makes a beeline for her teacher makes me question her sincerity.

So today was the school’s annual concert. A really huge effort on the part of all the teachers of the school who work from January preparing the children for this event. This year’s theme was focussed on artists through the centuries and the concert was in celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of independence with music through the decades since then.

With #1, 2 and 3 all taking part this year, I would say that was pretty good value for the ticket price. No matter what kind of phase we are going through at home and believe me, we are experiencing a lot of simple requests being completely ignored, I marvel at just how much progress #1 and 2 are making at school. The confidence they have in performing on a big, massive stage in front of so many Grown Ups. How they are able to sing along to Chinese and English songs and remember all the dance moves when they can’t even remember I asked them to help me tidy up their toys just two seconds ago.

But the pride I felt as I watched them on stage really does give meaning to that saying ‘bursting with pride’. I’ve felt good about many of my own achievements and I’ve felt good about those of my friends and family. But nothing compares to the feeling of pride as I watch my own children doing something they have clearly worked hard on and the strength they have had to find to overcome their nerves and apprehension to perform their show on stage. They are still only very young after all.

And so #1, 2 and 3 have all started their adventure of learning and discovery. Their mind is a sponge for all sorts of facts and figures. They’re enjoying every moment of it too. Some of it I remember, most I don’t and a lot I’ve never even come across. Some days they share their learnings with me and some days they apparently have learnt nothing at all. But I have a feeling there’ll be many more days they’ll have me bursting with pride and amazement.

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