The Thing About Life

What Your Parents Want

Dear Xander,

The past few weeks have your parents a little distressed. Your English teacher in your nursery class has been dropping notes to us in your daily assignments, telling us you really need help in your writing. In nursery school terms, of course the teacher means writing the alphabet, not a research paper on understanding the reproductive behaviour of 3-month-old dwarf hamsters (a topic that your mother and I unfortunately have too much information on).

Over the weekend, the greatest accomplishment I have achieved with you was making you write the X in your name. Your mother is much better at this; her greatest accomplishment the same weekend was getting you to go to Settings and recognise the word General on an iPad. She’s still trying to figure out how to make you recognise Brightness and Wallpaper.

Let’s put this in perspective; you’re 3 years old, and born on the tail end of December too, for crying out loud. My worry is not so much that you may not be able to keep up with the Singapore education system, but that the Singapore education system is not structured to your benefit.

Being born in November myself, your father can understand your predicament. I was a late bloomer; I completed my tertiary education at the tender age of 27, when everyone else in my class got their diplomas at age 19-20. My primary/secondary/pre-university education was absolutely nothing to brag about, save for my ability to scale a 3-metre barb-wired school fence to avoid the discipline master when I was late for school. By the time I was 15 years old, your grandparents had given up hope on me, at one point sitting me down in a serious discussion about me just focusing on a career in cooking Indonesian food, since I was enjoying eating so much I was getting fat enough to wear a bra.

It would be hypocritical for your mother and I to say we don’t expect anything from you; if we held no expectations, we wouldn’t have bought the 5 canes strewn all over our house with 1 tucked under the sun visor of our family car for emergencies. What I have learnt from dealing with my own father, though, is to think back on my own history as a toddler/child/teenager/adult son, and quite frankly decide not to ask too much of my own children.

Admittedly at some point this year or next, you will need to learn and demonstrate writing out your name in full (English and Chinese). But for now, I’m just going to wait for the next parent-teacher conference at your school and ask what exactly your teacher is expecting out of a 3-year-old born in late December, because as far as your mother and I are concerned, you’ve been able to fulfill most of our expectations. You eat your vegetables, are polite to strangers, manage to pee standing into the toilet bowl most of the time (I have explained to your mother and she has understood that sometimes just after you wake up in the morning this is not physically possible), and above all that, you’ve given us your laughter, your funny quips and, well, you.

All we ever wanted from you, you’ve already given us. You’ve given your mother and I happiness; what more can we ask for?

Love, Dad

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