Monkeys, aliens, schools

Everything good that’s happened so far concerning our kids has been the result of outside factors mysteriously aligning, or else a complete fluke. Never have two less prepared people been blessed with little people to mould. Stork, you idiot.

But so far, our tactical non-preparation has worked pretty well. We don’t know what we’re doing; we accept and admit it; and que sera, sera. Up until yesterday, I’d advocate conscious non-preparedness pretty strongly as a parenting mechanism because having no expectations means you continually outdo yourself and reckon you are the best parents out. This artificially boosts your confidence and allows you to overlook the multitude of daily fails at safety, nutrition, sleeping, education, developmental milestones etc. that would otherwise send you to flopping on your stomach on your bed in tears. And in my experience, just having kids at all (leaving aside parenting strategies of any kind) makes you do that enough anyway.

Rufus is now 3.5 years old and Zadie is 16 months. As long as we let them run around outside, know how to make little sandwiches and cut up strawberries and bananas, have plenty of books and toy cars, and wash their sheets occasionally, we have this game wrapped up. They don’t really ask tricky questions yet, eating alphabet soup out of a can for tea is actually awesome, and we’re still smarter and better at doing everything than them so we can stay one step ahead in this great deceit.

Until yesterday. That was the day I realised that in Hong Kong, you have to apply to primary schools the September before your kid intends to start. That it this September. In three months we have to have our son’s future course mapped out. NEXT SEPTEMBER I WILL HAVE A KID AT SCHOOL. This could be thought to be cause for more tears on the pillow but remember that I only realised this yesterday, so it’s unlikely Rufus will even get into a school at this rate, hooray!

Hong Kong is a very competitive place and that includes educationally. There’s a number of different categories of schools and after my extensive research of two hours last night, I cannot even work out which stream to apply for. There are application tests and interviews. Dad works in the secondary system but his partner is in primary and said she saw an interview where the kid got rejected after the principal asked “What is that?” and the kid said “An apple” instead of “That is an apple.” The kid was 3. That is not a joke. I’m not sure if it’s the same in primary school, but high schools are banded – A, B, C and D. If you’re smart academically, you’re A; if you tend more to the dunce cap end of the spectrum, you’re a D. This is apparently as foolish in practice as it is in theory. Without more able kids to challenge them, the Cs and Ds never rise above academic mediocrity and become withdrawn and unmotivated; conversely, As and Bs develop gilded complexes and become difficult (if over-achieving) employees. It’s a widespread problem with the Hong Kong education system and the many Western teachers here are trying to inch things towards a more reasonable system. It would be OK if Hong Kong society was like Chinese but in the business arena, which is where they’re nearly all striving to get, things are quite Western. All these tiny little standardised kids one day trying to fit in in businesses which are trying to relate to a global market. Everyone needs a label and a designation. It’s why the three secretaries at my dad’s work are called “Director of Administration”, “Operations Coordinator” and “Production Coordinator”. Everyone’s got a business card, and it means everything.

Not sure where I was going with that. So anyway, picking a school. This is hard! We have all the normal concerns of parents, coupled with not knowing how long we’ll stay here. If we move back to Australia in the middle of Ru’s schooling and have to uproot him, shouldn’t we best put him in an international school so at least he’ll not have culture shock to deal with as well? Or put him in a local, the quicker to learn the language and assimilate? But the homework regime in the locals! But the long bus trips out to Kowloon Tong to the internationals!

We actually have to go to our first parent-teacher conference next week. In fact Rufus’s first report is being sent home tomorrow in preparation. The guy’s in kinder. This has been a wake-up call. We have a kid to send to school soon; we are going to a PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE next week!

I am suddenly overwhelmed.

Also this weekend we had to mind the class alien, Googley Woogley, and do a write-up complete with photos of what adventures he got up to. I was in such a flap as we took GW on the minibus to see some monkeys at Tsuen Wan. I just knew we would be the first family out of 20 to lose GW or Zadie would break its plastic ugly head off or something. I was screeching “Don’t stand too close to that monkey!” as I envisioned the stinky macaques making off with GW through the reservoir. Tonight when it came time to do our write-up in the scrapbook I found it hard to relinquish control of the gluestick.


If anyone needs me, I’ll be on my bed crying.


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