Grandmum’s Lesson About Car Scratching

Toddler me

My mum was a public school English teacher pretty much all her working life. Mostly upper secondary, and she often transferred around to accommodate my dad’s job, just as I did. Though periodically sought by the private sector, she remained motivated, sometimes rather inexplicably, to stay a civil servant til she retired about 10 years ago - whereupon she is now extremely proud of her pension.

They've got a totally new door and signage now...

In her spare time, my mum liked to do a little social work. Reading aloud at St Nicholas' Home For The Blind, that kind of thing. The giver is truly more blessed than the receiver, because later on when she was stressed or unhappy she found volunteering also nixed feelings of helplessness and futility at being unable to do anything about one’s own situation. (I can't do anything for me, but I know I'm doing something good for someone.)

It was a source of inspiration, when I had crappy days in the office, I would surprise colleagues with smoothies or supermarket flowers. The crappier the day, the more I forced myself to do something nice and unrelated.

One of the public schools my mum once taught at was in a very tough neighborhood. There were gangs. 13 year olds sold themselves for a few ringgit. The school discipline teacher seated next to her once confiscated a love letter, then leapt out of her chair, as tufts of pubic hair fell out of the envelope.

It was in this school that my mum then decided to give free English tuition after her morning session was over, to any kids who wanted to attend. Her classes grew popular, as did she. Malaysia can be a pretty unsafe place so it’s not like we tempted fate by being unusually reckless, but in general there was some confidence we would go about fairly unmolested in the neighborhood where the school was.

Then one day, my mum drove her new car to school. At the end of the morning session, she came back to find it had been badly scratched up. She was devastated. That afternoon, she announced the end of her daily pro bono classes and why, much to her students’ dismay.

Several days later, some of her students approached her:

Cikgu, we found the culprit. We would like to bring him over to apologize to you.”

The culprit was earnest, “I scratched it only because it was new. I had no idea it was yours. If I’d known, I never would have touched it!!”

My mum remained unconvinced.

Her regular students tried everything, “Would it help if we beat him up?”

It turns out her best lesson to them was when she stopped giving free lessons.

(But she did keep lending them her books and my rap music cassette tapes... She just wanted them to always remember they weren't supposed to scratch anyone's car.)

Have a good Monday.

ps: We can't help Mondays but we can buy people smoothies.

Four year old me.

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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  • Heather

    Brilliant post! I’m off to buy some smoothies now 🙂

    • Aileen

      Thanks Heather… Fixing Mondays one smoothie at a time!

  • Cheeky Angel

    A fantastic story and a great lesson for those poor kids. And what an inspiration your mum is!

    • Aileen

      thanks CA… again, it was very nice to finally meet you – hadn’t even occurred to me to tell this til it came up at lunch!

      HWL, will try to dig up a few more

      have a good week ahead…

  • HWL

    More stories of mummy’s childhood and youth please.