He is in Primary 2 and he is going through his first ever exam. He didn’t have exams in Primary 1.
A few other mums call and SMS me with slightly frantic questions which freak me out a bit: What revision? What worksheet? What test? TOMORROW?
At the moment his nose is mostly buried in story books, not textbooks, and I’m not sure if he knows how to study or if I need to teach him how to.
Day is cool: Yes, there’s a test tomorrow but don’t worry about it.
I do. Because his grades are not always great. And his complete lack of concern (perhaps mine too!) is slightly jarring.
But I leave it there anyway, with one rejoinder: If he wishes to be left alone the way he has been left alone, with no assessment books or mock test papers or drilling at home, he had better score damn well in the exam.
Which is my way of pushing all responsibility for his own grades to him, the carrot being his own independence and nothing more.
He nods and asks: What is “damn well”?
This is KK’s fourth try now, to try and cross the Professional Engineering hurdle.
It’s become familiar to me and the kids, like an annual Qing Ming ritual or Christmas party.
It’s the only time in the year when we head downtown on a working weekday evening to the SMU campus, and wait for papa to come out with a whole lot of other men who are similarly dragging textbook-filled trolley bags around.
He, however, seems to be the only candidate with a posse of one big and three small cheerleaders madly jumping outside the door to try and see him through the glass slit.
* KK in white at the back
The lead-up to the big event has also been the same for four years: The nightly studying which starts several months before, his overcast mien on his birthday (which always takes place a few weeks before the exam) and my having to take over all household duties for a while.
Also similar every year is the same strange mix of relief and despondency as he walks out of the exam hall and sighs.
What I have figured, if I could use a cooking analogy, is that he specializes in baking desserts (geotechnical) but in order to get the qualification he has to pass a test in Chinese stir-frying (structures).
Which is what makes it so hard because he doesn’t stir-fry, and he isn’t interested in stir-frying, at all.
The boys talk about their respective exams and cucumber-cool Day, who is having a much easier time of it than his papa, asks KK: What if you fail again?
KK replies: Try again lor.
This year is also particularly special because while waiting for KK, a worker beckons us to finish up the remnants of a buffet! Free food! Sausage buns, carrot cake and curry puff!
The kids, for the first time, see the huge trays of food being thrown away into a black trash bag and they, who are made to finish up every grain of rice on their plates, are aghast at the wastage.
Jo, the eternal questioner, is distressed and grills me: Why must they throw the food away? Why can’t they keep it so other people who are hungry can eat? Why can’t they pack it? Why must they throw it away at 5pm? Why can’t they wait a while?
On a good note, Jo now aces her weekly ting xie.
* Stars are self-awarded
A few factors for success:
* The words got easier
* I teach her, not KK
And the strangest thing, which is perhaps not so strange after all.
She does incredibly well when I ignore her. So I cook, throw her a word, go back to cooking, and once the attention is off her, she rises magnificently to the occasion, getting all her words right.
She does better the more she is ignored. So I have to act like I couldn’t care less.