When she joined a new school here in Singapore, one of the first few things that excited my nine year old was a forthcoming trip to Kidzania from school. Having tasted a slice of the ‘Zania-Life’ in Mumbai, my little big girl did her happy dance. And although, my younger one’s school wasn’t doing an outing, she was happy for her big sis. In the weeks that followed, our daughter came home with all sorts of new experiences at school. She managed to come to speed with her classmates on essential general knowledge that came to us as a complete shocker. Using the S, F and I words seemed to top the charts. By the way, I still do not know what the ‘I-word’ means. Does that make me a relic?
Next up, she has a list of boys that form teacher’s favourites a.k.a high on Teacher’s Wrath Index. Then she is getting used to completing Holistic Assessments (don’t even get me started on the kind of questions asked. I have taken four complete decades to understand half as much about myself as she is expected to know before age 10). And then, there was the ‘Gifted Education Programme Examination’ saga that left her head spinning. She just came home like one zombie and conked off. One of her newly acquired skills includes purchasing $1 stationery from the school bookstore and marketing them to me as a necessary evil. The list is endless.
And while the older one has a plethora of things to talk to me about, the younger one is equally competitive and strives her best to get heard. And to a mother who experiences super high volume of receiving and collating different sets of information coming in form different ears, parenting feels like struggling to complete a triathlon with two kids four years apart and a spouse that is available only like the OPC(Off Peak Cars in Singapore that can be used only between 7.30pm-7.30am on weekdays and full time over the weekends of course). I am sure the younger one is going to act nine when she turns seven; and teens at probably ten. Phew, that’s scary! That also means I am growing older sooner than I expected. Time to work on my bucket list.
I always sidetrack and jump topics; feminine brain, you see. I started out with Kidzania. So, just three days to the trip, the class received a booklet called the Learning Journey Booklet. And this one was phenomenal. The teacher talked to them about the trip as a ‘Learning Journey’ when as an average parent I thought the apt word should have been ‘picnic’ which is so my generation or at most ‘field trip’ as used by schools in general. But a ‘Learning Journey’ already felt a little over the board. The teacher introduced them to ‘Golden Rules’ and ‘Expectations’ and the class was also asked to make ‘Wise Decisions’. I gaped like a goldfish when these words flew out of my daughter’s mouth like a cloudburst. I was stumped to say the least and almost stumbled. Three glasses of cold water later I was able to come back to my senses and my first reaction was laughter. I couldn’t resist the urge to picture an entire grade three of a school landing at a destination like Kidzania and acting all prim and proper and making a genuine effort at understanding their future professional choices. I was beginning to fathom the kind of vocabulary I’d need to brace myself up for, if this was grade 3! Public schools are definitely not for the faint hearted.
And then, I thought about my already grownup sounding daughter who by the way is a big fan of honesty and loves to go by the book and follow rules (her behaviour reminds me of Naseeruddin Shah in the Bollywood movie Katha). She is your best choice for the courtroom judge. I wondered if I should have sent her to a hostel instead. At least, she would have gotten a taste of the real world and mastered the art of street smartness or learnt how to deal with rule breakers. Well, she couldn’t be bothered and ranted endlessly about mischief mongers that keep trying the patience of teachers and the possibility of them not making it to the trip and her plans and friends. She was too excited to apply any brakes.
So finally, the D-day arrived and the trip seemed a far cry from being what it was meant to be in it’s most serious sense – ‘A Learning Journey’. Kids had tons of fun; something they are hardwired to do. Yes, they did display patience and talked softly and my daughter felt like the only one that stood out from the rest and got heard beyond the four walls.
And here comes the best part. Turns out my girl was the only vegetarian in the entire grade. And since lunch was on the house, she was the lucky one to have enjoyed a big slice of pizza while the rest of the class had to put up with rice and noodles. She was at the receiving end of countless excited eyes and flying saliva – “Wow, that’s pizza!” The next time round you know the whole class is going vegetarian, at least for an excursion.
And later, during snack time, her local friend tried the good old Bread Pakodas (fried snack made using bread) I packed her in the morning. And guess what, I got a thumbs up. That’s what I call cultural diversity mixed with friendship and a mindset for adventure. The best thing about kids is that they are unscathed by barriers of ego and rigid choices we adults love to play around with. All they understand is, “That looks yum, can I try?”
We spent the afternoon listening to tales from a morning well spent in the land of the future. There were stories of trying out different roles – air hostess, building climbers (although I am only of aware of mountain climbers and they give me a severe pain in my thighs) and the more popular roles of police officers and firemen that commanded forever long queues. And yes, did I tell you how much fun I had examining her credit card but was forced to shut my ears after listening to the word ‘activated’ at least 5 times? Finally, we transitioned into an afternoon siesta. And now that we still have the Maybank card and 20 Kidzoz (Kidzania money)to use, the younger can’t wait to go to Kidzania!!