It’s been a big and important week for our family. Rufus started primary school, Zadie started kindergarten, and Joel and I responsively broke out in tufts of grey hair and new wrinkles on our fretful brows. There’s photographic evidence of the rapid degeneration to come, but first, the freshness of youth – Rufus on his first day, complete with obligatory legionnaire hat in his house colour, which is blue for…SANDMARTIN, a type of swallow. Already I’m struggling to accept that he wasn’t assigned to LION or DRAGON house, probably to the point of accounting for three of the new grey hairs, but he seems to be a happy little SANDMARTIN so if he can accept the indignity of representing a small migratory bird with grace (or indifference), then I suppose I’ll learn to live with it.
Do you want fries with that – AMIRITE? (Though by Hong Kong standards, this is a particularly attractive uniform…some schools have sailor suits right through to the final year, others have long white dresses with saggy knee-length cardigans…)
You can see that the uniform is extremely hard on the eye in photo form. If it bleeds this much on “film”, imagine how stressful it was washing the fucker for the first time! Especially now that I only do washing about twice a year (when MaryJane is on holidays) and don’t know how to turn the machine on. I was quite concerned that the red stripes would run into the white stripes and we’d have to send him along on his first day wearing a washed-out pink shirt, which I felt sure none of the DRAGON or LION parents would do but was hopeful people would understand an underachieving SANDMARTIN parent doing. In the end the washing was a successful if tedious process, involving separate loads for striped shirts, all-red sports shirts, grey shorts, red sports shorts, etc, and after only seven hours of laundering, we had a full complement of solidly and discretely candy-striped kit for our guy.
People who launder more frequently than me understand that the next step in the process for items such as uniforms is ironing. It might be suggested that someone more experienced and professional in wielding domestic implements (MaryJane, and especially Joel – he’s been married to me for five years now, and it’s been a pretty constant slog, for him, of doing the bulk of the family’s ironing…cooking…mending…), but I felt overwhelmingly maternally compelled to be the one to iron his uniform for the first time. The compulsion diminished as I realised that ironing takes FOREVER, and is really boring, plus fraught with danger, and irritating if you don’t have one of those little cups to refill the water “tank” thing of the iron. I was already sick of it after the first half-hour of the project, which I spent combing the house for the ironing board. Eventually found it in the wardrobe in the spare room. That’s how much of a novelty ironing is around here. Also, because it’s Hong Kong, the ironing board is a rickety knee-height contraption with all the stability of a Lego house made by my 2-year-old, so the ironing was back-breaking as well as dangerous and boring. Needless to say I fully satisfied my fleeting “maternal compulsion” as regards laundering and the job will fall to someone else for the approximately 12 years and 51 weeks that remain of Rufus’s schooling.
I then turned the full force of my frenzied concerns onto the lunchbox situation, trying out many varieties of boxes with all sorts of clip locks and sealing mechanisms. I allowed Rufus to label the final selection/s with his name tags but painstakingly removed them later and replaced them uniformly using a sun dial and a protractor for precision placement. I conducted numerous experiments on the types of plastic lunch bags available in the supermarket, seeking a balance between ease of opening, temperature maintenance, and lack of spillage. Late at night, by the glow of the open refrigerator, I completed “practice packs” to establish the optimal number of grapes to store in particular containers, and whether crackers have less chance of crumbling if they’re left in the individual packaging they come in here, or taken out and rewrapped in Gladwrap.
The preps are doing half-days this week so we’ve only needed to provide a snack. Despite, and probably because of, my zealous preparation, I admit that my first two days’ snack menu were a fail. Unsure whether Rufus would be able to open the little plastic containers by himself, I went for the easy option of simply tipping a loose collection of yogurt-covered raisins, sultanas and dried mango directly into his lunchbox. He came home each day with his lunchbox still mostly full, and I realised that having to use his hand much like the scoop on the front of a digger to paw your snack out of your plastic box, like some sort of wild beast, in front of his new friends was probably less appealing to him than the chance of spilling something trying to open a particularly Tupperware-ish (impenetrable) lid. I had to make an 11pm trip to Wellcome last night, and spend hundreds of dollars on new and different snackfoods, before I came to this realisation.
So today, he took a half-opened sandwich bag filled with grapes and strawberries; a half-opened Babybel cheese; and a half-open packet of Saladas. Vindication was mine as I reached for his lunchbox before we’d even left his classroom this afternoon, gleefully prising off the lid to reveal only empty wrappers, a lone grape, and that evocative childhood lunchbox smell of old fruit with bottom notes of sun-baked plastic and juice. SUCCESS!
Of course apart from uniforms and lunches, there are other minor concerns when your child starts school, like whether they’re going to like it/fit in, etc. That remains to be seen and unfortunately can’t be measured by idiotic panic experiments, or blogging. We’re just taking it one day at a time. Like everyone else really, because that’s how time works, innit. But this is where the Hong Kong system of full-time school-like kindergarten really comes into its own. The kids are totally used to spending full days out of the house and working to their little timetables. There were no tears on the first day, from any of the kids/parents that I saw, actually. Everyone was just excited and hoy sum (“open heart” = “happy”).
Other observations so far…
-Boys eat so much, we all know that, but as soon as they start school they instantly become like teenagers. I remember watching my brother get home from school every day from about the ages of 8-15 and stand in front of the fridge drinking litres of orange juice straight out of the carton before making himself four or five ham and cheese sandwiches and eating the lot like a big tower of carby calorific replacement. So far we haven’t been able to get a word out of Rufus until we’ve fed him a boxful of muesli bars and a hand of bananas on the drive home.
-He lost one of his white socks on the very first day somewhere between taking it off at the front door, and getting to the dirty laundry basket 15 feet away. I’m not even joking. So begins the pile of mismatched socks that will grow at a rate of 75 a year until the kids move out of home.
-Deciding on what school clubs he’s going to join was FUN. He naturally wanted the computer club but we’ve Tiger-Mothered him into Year 1/2 Choir, not because of our long-held dream for him to be the world’s first gweilo Cantonese opera falsetto but because he already monopolises all our computers enough; we don’t want to give him an actual legitimate reason to push us away from reading blogs about royal families and updating our Supercoach team.
Rufus with the World’s Stupidest Dog, and his Perpetually Nude Sister, full of hope before we crushed his dreams of playing Angry Birds every lunchtime in Computer Club:
Speaking of the Perpetually Nude Sister, as mentioned she also started kindergarten this week. Naturally because she’s the second-born, and only a girl, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
NOT REALLY, future Zadie. Here you are in your pink shirt, pink skirt, pink undies, pink rabbit hairties, and ridiculous pink bow hairclips, posing with the sign at your kinder. No, you’re not from Hong Kong, not at all…
It was pretty much the best day of your life so far. I can’t believe you’re such a big girl already. Just so you know, though, you’re not big enough to actually be in charge so maybe you should ramp down a bit on standing next to the teacher and telling the other kids how to dance to “Wiggly Woo”.
Seriously though, there isn’t actually that much to say about kinder. It’s got toys. There’s puzzles and dancing and craft and little tiny toilets and chairs that adults can’t sit on. You get to run around like a maniac, paint on walls, dig in the sandpit. Smiles for miles.
This post has too many words, and I’m going to end it with a colossal understatement: that was a big week. And a great one.
If anyone has any questions about laundering uniforms, please post them here and Joel will get back to you. Except if it’s about how to affix labels to the inside of school shoes. Because I can do that like a boss.