The year is 2017. The month is January. The time is now.
As an educator, I have seen 4 batches of P6 students from 2 different schools pass through my hands. At a conservative estimate of 200 students per batch, I have seen more than 800 P6 pupils participate in the first major milestone examination of their young and tender lives and witnessed how their parents drove them through the gates of hell or highway of heaven in their minds during the last year of their primary school experience. So I am fairly familiar and hardly a noob to PSLE, along with its trials and tribulations for both the parents and the child. After vicariously experiencing the joys and sorrows of P6 parents and pupils for 4 years of my life, and after speaking with so many sets of parents and children on this same issue, some jubilant, some crestfallen, some nonchalant, I have come to wonder many times, when my personal turn comes, what will I be like, as a PSLE mum. Shall I brandish the stick of abject terror? Shall I dangle the carrot of handsome reward? Or shall I swirl the pom-poms of delighted encouragement by the sidewalk as he march towards PSLE purposefully to the beat of my drum?
The truth is, I am not predisposed to do any of the above. All the observations of the multitudes of journeys other families travelled has made me somewhat zen and level-headed about this whole jamboreethingeemazit. I know this is a milestone, but only one of the many milestones that my eldest would go through. I know PSLE is important, but only for a while, and beyond the age of 16 nobody really cares about what score one gets at 12 anyway. I don’t even know where my own PSLE certificate is now at the grand old age of 41. Gone are the days that only the academic highway leads to fame and glory. In fact, very often, it does not. Early childhood success often brings to a person an inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement such that it becomes detrimental to one’s personal growth and development beyond the age of 20 and cause one to be insufferably arrogant. So no, I am not going to brandish my whip and sing the tiger mum’s anthem.
How about dangling the carrot in front of my son’s nose? I have heard of parents who promised children $100 per A star or a vacation to a dream location or the gift of a coveted gadget. I shan’t say that my son’s effort in mugging for a good six years of his life is only worth a measly total of $400, and he can receive it only if he has the good sense to score all A stars, and all his princely efforts would come to nought if he had scored none. I would love to grant him a dream vacation to his dream location to celebrate the end of both our tortured experience in sitting through countless hours of assignments and assessments, and if I could afford it I would not take it away from him even if he had failed to achieve his goals – at least he had tried. As for the much coveted gadget, our family policy is that all the children would only get hand-me-down phones and gadgets that the parents no longer cared to use, so that option simply would not do for us. So I would probably not be able to bring myself to dangle that carrot anyway.
This leaves me the final option of cheering him on, which on the onset, seemed as if it were the most natural thing to do. What kind of heartless mum would I be if I don’t even care enough to cheer him on this dreaded drudgery of a full year of examination preparations (as if it hadn’t even started the year before). But must such hard work be cheered? Would he still have to work hard even if I am too busy with school work, too distracted by my three other children or too exhausted by both work and children to cheer him on? The answer is most definitely a yes. Slacking is never an option in our family, and he is by no means my snowflake strawberry munchkin that I have to molly coddle and heap praises and encouragements before he feels inspired to work. Work is just a part of our normal everyday existence, and school work is as meaningful work as any, though we don’t expect it to be the all-consuming alpha and omega. In fact it shouldn’t be, as we believe that only God Himself deserves to be called the Alpha and the Omega and everything else pales in comparison.
So after examining my options, together with my conscience, I do not feel any compulsion to treat this year as differently as any other year. Readers and onlookers alike might find me strange, but that is how it is for me, though I did promise Augustine a one-on-one vacation with me to any where in the world he pleases after PSLE, but for a completely different reason as dangling a carrot in front of him. As to why this offer, and why only with him alone, is a topic for another day. Meanwhile, let me first content myself with deconflicting the play-dates and birthday party schedules for the four children with whatever that is left of my spare time (yes he still has a healthy social life, unlike me). As I always like to think until it is too late and by then it doesn’t matter anyway, examination concerns can always wait for another day.