So, Rufus is about to start prep. This parenting shit just got real. You might think that him having attained the age of nearly 5, and Zadie 2.5, indicates that the parenting has been real for half a decade now – but frankly, no. “Que sera sera” has been our motto, and by the seat of our pants we have flown.
When we became aware about six months ago that we had to choose a primary school for him, we were flushed with panic that we were about to be revealed as parents who didn’t know how to go about choosing a school. Also, we didn’t know how to go about choosing a school. Luckily it turns out that isn’t such a concern here, where our options are limited to usurious international schools (too poor); locals (not enough Cantonese); or the English Schools Foundation. So that first choice was made for us. Then, within ESF, we found we were only permitted to apply for the school in our catchment area. By this method a school was basically chosen for us, and therefore, relieved of any decision-making, we could forget about the whole thing. Until now.
A few weeks ago Joel and I attended a parent orientation session. We gathered in the school hall with 200 or so other parents, to be told how to label a sunhat and pack a lunchbox. So many good ideas about plasticware were revealed; it was extremely reassuring. Some parents even took notes. Rufus has also had two orientation days, which he was very excited about. For these sessions, the preps were split into classes by colour. Rufus was in ‘yellow’ and was wearing a yellow t-shirt. Afterwards, we were riding a local public bus on the way to the train station when a number of his similarly clad classmates and their parents got on the bus too. I turned to Joel and said, “There are so many yellows on this bus!” Quite loudly, because it’s just a regular statement, right?
WORST ATTEMPT TO ASSIMILATE EVER.
That also reminds me of this other time when we were coming home in a taxi. The driver had one of those ergonomic seat covers made out of small wooden pine beads – you know the ones? Rufus announced: “Mama, this taxi driver’s got little yellow balls on his seat.” Yes. Yes, he probably does.
But this isn’t about our almost daily cultural faux pas. It’s about a rite of passage, and Rufus – and us – growing up. I’m a little shocked by how emotional I’m feeling. When you’re about to have your first kid, everyone’s telling you their birth stories and you’re thinking, “Sure, but it’ll be different for me. Whatever!” You smile, but cavalierly dismiss their advice. You feel you’re surely the first person to go through this, and you know everything! Ditto starting school. When my kids were under 3, people would say, “They grow up so quick! They’ll be in school before you know it!” I’d be like, “Whatev! What do you know, old person! Also, good. Then I might finally be able to finish that book I’ve been halfway through since 2005.” But now I find myself uttering platitudes about “the years passing so quickly” and “I remember when they were this big”. So, parents of kids who are younger than mine, just listen up, alright: cherish them when they’re young because before you know it they’ll be gone and living in a sharehouse with three hobos, an inoperable microwave and seven bongs, subsisting on home-brand pasta and granted cheese, and only calling home when they want some money. HUG THEM A LITTLE TIGHTER TONIGHT, ALRIGHT!
This is Rufus on his first day of kinder, 18 months ago:
We’d been in Hong Kong for less than a week. We were living in temporary accommodation that made the sharehouse with three hobos and an inoperable microwave that he’ll eventually live in seem luxuriously well-equipped. My boy was away from his family and his little mates, his cats, his home and everything that was familiar to him – and he got on that school bus by himself five days a week, and started to make new friends, and learn Chinese and reading and writing, and how to be away from us during the day. At the same time I was stressed about returning to work while still breastfeeding Zadie, Zadie was stressed about the same thing, and Joel was stressed with the effort of looking after us all. Rufus did a monumental thing in that sense. He adjusted, he took it all in his stride, and he grew up.
Now he’s growing up a bit more, and it does hurt a little in my heart.
Waiting for the bus to orientation day last week.
Shine on, mate.