One morning, after dropping Ziya to pre-school, on time, I drove away thinking about her teachers’ emphasis on preparing her for primary school next year. What no one talks about is how much pre-school is primary school preparation for parents like me.
I suspected her teachers knew this given that, when Zi was entering Year 1, I somehow didn’t know that you are supposed to show up at school registration day with actual documents and not just the child. I caught them exchanging glances like, well, there’s one every year and, indeed, here she is.
And, now that she’s in Year 2, how was I supposed to know that Zi would be self-conscious walking into class after it started because we arrived late? First, that she would be self-conscious about lateness at three years old never occurred to me. Second, I thought pre-school was where children went to learn through play and could join in activities anytime. Apparently, not. It’s all about routine and schedule and also learning discipline. Who knew?
I’m good at books-related parenting and Zi’s library covers everything from astronomy to dinosaurs to art history with gorgeous and child-friendly artwork. I’m good at giving her life experiences, whether of rivers, restaurants or protests. Zi marched with citizens saying no to the electoral run- off proposal, imposed without adequate consultation. She participated in the climate change march, giving us a chance to talk about how the birds, animals and marine life need their homes protected too, though she was primarily focused on her snocone. She almost lives by Yara river. Her godmother, aunties and I give her abundant experiences of good food, leading to her suddenly declare her love for decaf cappuccino last month. Don’t ask.
Aside from this, I’m often too preoccupied to notice that forgetting her virtually empty, mostly symbolically important, schoolbag is a big deal. I figure Zi’s got to learn that few things constitute a crisis. I tell her better to make Pete the Cat’s “‘Buttons come, buttons go. Do we cry? Goodness no”, her survival motto.
My mother practically started a custody case when she realized I would have blithely sent Zi to school in ordinary instead of Indian clothes for Divali, prompting her to rush to Chaguanas to spare her one grandchild not fitting in or having the whole experience. I mean she’s got a lifetime to wear shalwars, right?
I didn’t think about starting the school year with a new lunch kit just because her current one is rusty or her best friend got a new one or it’s what parents normally do. Zi had to have a talk with me in her ‘mummy, you should have’ admonishing voice while I rolled my eyes, but listened.
Zi’s teachers finally took charge when I was explaining that I’d forgotten to dress her in Republic Day colours as requested. They sent me an email announcing that when children do what teachers ask, they get rewarded with a sticker. It seems I’m now on a sticker system, with my own chart. Not the other parents, just me.
Zi’s being prepared for primary school, but my learning curve includes getting her to school on time, mostly. I make sure she’s got her show-and-tell in her bag, mostly. I remember to collect her on afternoons without setting an alarm or being reminded by a concerned co-worker, mostly. She’ll be dressed in proper outfits for all national days from now on, mostly. It will have taken, not just her, but me, two full years to be prepared for primary school, mostly.
I thank her teachers.
Now, where’s my sticker?