They grow up too fast.
We had Xander’s primary school orientation earlier this week. It was a bittersweet moment for the Mother of Xander; it is the passing of a milestone for our firstborn. I said to her, “That’s why we have a second child, so we can relive it all over again.”
It was a bittersweet moment for me as well; the notion that the textbooks and uniforms take a big chunk off my livelihood was taking a toll on my heart. And we have a second child, so we have to relive this all over again.
After arriving at the school, we got down to business at some makeshift tables lined along the corridor before the school hall entrance, each table serving as a registration counter for the Primary 1 classes. We were given a plastic folio containing brochures, pamphlets and a few forms we had to fill out and submit after the orientation talk was over. Different schools may have different set-ups and facilities, but ours came with:
- a Pupil Data Form;
- a GIRO form for school fees;
- a consent form for in-school dental treatment;
- a student daycare registration form; and
- a National Library membership registration form.
As we made our way towards the school hall, we were instructed to leave our children in the care of the school, who filtered them off into a separate staircase to the gallery area.
That was when the Mother of Xander felt her first pang of primary school separation anxiety, but we next saw him in the school hall seated in the gallery stalls, so she calmed down somewhat (honestly, we both did) when she saw how well he was doing with his peers around him.
The talk proper started off with a brief introductory video of the Family Matters @ School programme, followed by a number of not-unwarranted chest-beating cultural performances, including a killer wushu performance and a contemporary dance number done with a Daft Punk/Lady Gaga remix mashup (yes, I was sold on the school’s nod to Daft Punk).
Midway through the programme, the emcee announced that the kids were to be moved off to their respective classes. Once again, pangs of separation anxiety. You could tell just about all the parents began tensing up as they momentarily drew their eyes to the back of the hall to see their children being whisked away class by class while the speaker of the moment tried to pry their attention back onto the stage.
A little later, the vice-principal would take to the stage, outlining the school history, special projects and introducing the faculty heads, as well as alumni and parent support group chairpeople. The various heads would take to the mic to explain next year’s syllabus changes (the Chinese curriculum seemed to be in the most state of flux right now; the Chinese textbooks are still being finalised and printed at the time of the orientation, and couldn’t be pushed out on time for release before December).
Meanwhile, the not-yet Primary 1s were being shown where all the toilets were.
For any of you thinking of skipping the dry, administrative part of the presentation at any school, don’t. Unless you already know the school start and end times, what the procedure is to fetch your kid for early departure, how much allowance you need to give your kid on any given day, what the drill is for fetching your children after work regardless of whether you walk, drive or put your kid on the school bus, or where to install the name tags for your kids’ uniforms, you’ll need to stick around and possibly take notes because most schools are not known for their stellar website FAQs.
And The Blogfather couldn’t tell you even if he wanted to because we skipped the dry, administrative part of the presentation, and decided to go take photos of kids cramming into toilets, then join the sneaky ha-ha-I-got-here-before-the-other-600-parents queue for the textbooks and uniforms instead.
I would expect the bookstore and uniform supplier to be pretty organised as well, in anticipation of the horde that would be greeting them once the school hall presentation was over. And they were. The bookstore had the primary school enrolment list on hand for 2015, and they had all the textbooks sorted out in Ta-Q-Bin boxes according to ethnicity (CL for students taking Chinese, ML for Malay and TL for Tamil Language). Once you got there, you checked off your kid’s name, run through the checklist and mark out the items that you need to come back for (remember the Chinese textbooks aren’t out yet), pay the woman handing you the box, cry a little at why textbooks are so expensive (we blew a little over $200 in a flash), and then move out of the little room.
The uniform supplier isn’t quite as straightforward. You’ll need your kid there to ensure you get the right sized garments, and once the crowd builds, they will pre-measure your child before you collect his or her uniforms. Pre-measuring is a bit risky, because you might end up getting a size too large or too small, but you are assured by the supplier that you can always go back for an exchange if you find the size too small when you try them on at home. But if you have the time to spare, just bring the uniforms and your kid to get a fitting away from the crowd and head back in if you need a size change. The uniform segment set us back a little under $90.
As I carted our son’s new academic life home over my shoulder, the Mother of Xander held her son’s hand a little tighter than usual. Our son was getting bigger now, and in another couple of months, he will be officially inducted into the first of his many years in the cold, hard, rigorous Singapore education system.
With all his books and stationery weighing heavily on my left, still good shoulder, I clutched my wallet with my free hand a little more tightly as usual, because in another couple of months, he will be a lot more expensive to maintain.
They grow up too fast.