HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS EVERY DAY FOR A LIVING......??
Do Kindergarten teachers get psyche evaluations? Just in case after all the screaming chaos they want to kill themselves.
My ears are ringing. My head hurts. Every peep from the 3 children in Canadian International School uniforms sitting at the next table is just making me want to stuff giant cotton balls in my ears. I could stuff the whole value pack where my brain would normally be right now.
This doesn’t count as a volunteer effort – that’ll be when we start organizing things outside the school’s regular activities.
This one’s a school trip - Hong Kong Academy of Performance Arts’ Stick Man.
When the school invited parents along, I jumped at the chance. Anything to understand Rockstar’s schooling system better. They try to pair you up with another kid whose parents aren’t attending, and we are told that will be Z – a BOY, specifically.
(Yes it's a blur picture. Try capturing your child jumping up and down in the chaos without catching anyone else's child's face in the background. In case you're wondering, they filled all 390 available tickets so you can imagine the number of kids doing this.)
Rockstar is pleased. He’s all ready to “help out” because I’ve explained he’s lucky enough to have his mum along, he should be nice to the little boy whose mum couldn't make it. "Where's Z?" he keeps asking.
Rockstar meets other stars...
Most of his class are late to the meeting point – they were on the last school bus and it got held up in traffic. In the scramble to take attendance and pair up before entering the theatre, Rockstar’s teacher brings over a --- GIRL.
Rockstar immediately swarms up my side. You would’ve thought his teacher brought over a python.
“Uh… I’m not taking care of Z?”
Teacher frowns and explains something I can’t hear above the cacophony of kids’ voices that rises to the low ceiling, bounces off, and starts ricocheting around my ears.
Rockstar is NOT. HAPPY. Tough. It’s not like I can say “Excuse me, can we get a boy instead? Because my son hates all the girls in his class.”
C takes my hand, and eagerly declares she has “many friends” at school. Is Rockstar one of them? She looks away.
Rockstar is scowling. He was all ready for a bout of male bonding over the theatre. Now his plans have been soundly thwarted. We got a – GIRL!? What kind of cockamamie screw up is that?
“Are you in the afternoon session with Rockstar, C?”
C goes quiet. Rockstar answers icily, “She is.”
Oh, so they know each other already. “Yes.” Feel the frost in my son’s voice. It’s like a meatlocker in here. C looks away like she’s deep in thought.
“He’s much smaller than me,” she turns back. It's a question.
I take another look at C. She’s 3 or 4 inches taller. But more significantly, she’s speaking to me in perfectly grammatical, wordy, full sentences. I’m almost sure her mother whom I saw minutes ago is local Hongkie – which I take to mean C is at least as fluent in Cantonese.
“When do you celebrate your birthday?” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I feel a sharp pang of guilt – it’s like Competitive Mummy Code for How Advanced Is Your Child? But I ask to confirm my guess, as she chatters on – she’s almost a whole year older than Rockstar. And they’re classmates.
Oh no. Am I putting too much pressure on my son? Am I setting him up for self-esteem issues, with all the much older, more advanced kids in his class? It’s why, at the back of my mind, I’ve been looking for playgroups with younger children as well… He’s surprisingly gentle with younger toddlers, to the point he gets his hair pulled and face scratched at on occasion.
“You’re bigger because you’re older,” I say, for the benefit of both children. When you’re older, that means you’ve had more time to grow and learn things. C considers this, “Oh, right,” she chirps. “I have a sister who’s six. She’s much bigger!” I allow my hopes to rise slightly, that these 2 might get along better when they’re back in the classroom. Maybe Rockstar won’t hate all the girls in his class.
Rockstar, me and C enjoy the play, though around us two squirming “I want to go home,” incidents break out.
Rockstar watches raptly, and I remember he’s even enjoyed Cantonese plays where we can’t understand what they’re saying. Still, he can’t resist confiding, “They not really flying,” when Santa Claus brings Stick Man home on his sleigh.
Then we’re waiting our turn to leave the theatre.
“You know, Rockstar rides his bike a lot – he even wears a proper helmet,” listen to me talking my son up to the girl. I’ve become one of those mums.
“Oo – pretty girl – my son lives in that dorm!” I’m just saying. Saw that on Transformers.
“I have a little pink scooter.” Sooo maybe you guys can ride together sometime? Both children look away.
I try again. “Look, Rockstar has a big dog named JD,” I pull out my cellphone and show her pictures. “She’s like his sister, they play ball together and go on walks, and she swims in the sea.”
“Why would you say a dog is like his sister?” Sigh. But she looks mildly impressed.
Then as we leave, I catch the hostile look that passes between the 2 children. Rockstar threw the first look by a split second, I think. Fine, make your own bed, I think. They might not be friends back in school but at least she won’t treat him like a total loser, right?
Then as we’re herded up the stairs, Rockstar complains, “These kids are pushing.” C throws him another look that he doesn’t see.
But I do.
It’s true, they were pushing quite rowdily, but as far back into my early childhood as I can remember, no one liked the kids with the thin skin. My son and I are going to talk… We start on the cab ride back.
Note everyone maintaining a tight grip on their children's hands as they wind through the busy streets of Wan Chai after leaving the theatre...
“Rockstar, those kids are pushing because they’re older and faster, and they think you are too. Because you made it into the big boy class, people will expect you to behave like a bigger boy – just remember they might not realize you’re younger. You should be pleased.”……..
And the Rockstar is.