The days start out in either blue or white, depending on what we see outside our window.
L1 heads for the light. “It’s not polluted today!” My little observer squeals, pointing at the blue skies that have replaced yesterday’s heavy smog. “Maybe we can go to the playground later?”
“It depends on what the air is like later,” I answer, careful not to make any promises. She goes on to play with her toys while I prepare her clothes—long pants and a dress or shirt, which will hopefully be enough to keep the mosquitoes from feasting on her again today.
To help her not feel so alone when she first started attending kindergarten, I would give her her Hello Kitty doll and a bottle of her favorite Pororo juice drink to keep her company. She eventually outgrew her Hello Kitty doll, but today she remembers her juice. “Don’t you remember,” I say, “how we talked about no more juice this week? We are running out of juice. If you are thirsty you can drink water at school.”
I’ve said that line three times already this week, and as they say, third time’s the charm. She lets her shoulders drop and looks away. Before any tears can start flowing, her father cuts in. “Honey, I’m about to go.” He turns to L1. “Let’s go L.”
She immediately perks up and bids me adieu. “Oh L, what did you forget?” I ask her. I’m referring to my daily kiss.
She pecks me on the cheek. “See you later Mommy,” and she gives me the biggest hug a tiny little girl can give. I say I love you. “I love you too, Mommy,” and I get another peck on the cheek.
According to my husband, there are still some days when L1 isn’t happy after being dropped off. On those days, she will greet her teachers with a frown and then sway from side to side, her discontent communicated very clearly. Nonetheless, she will still follow her teacher into the school.
The children will start their day by heading into the common room and then having breakfast with their peers. Weeks ago when my daughter caught the Hand and Mouth virus, my mother asked me what reassurance I had that the tiny kindergarten’s food was clean. It brought back memories of the few days I spent with L1 in her new school, with L2 in the baby carrier. The teachers were kind enough to also provide for my littler one. When L2 couldn’t finish her food, I took a spoonful and found the food very satisfactory—not too salty, not too sweet. Almost bland to the adult palate but just right for toddlers. With that moment in mind, I told my unbelieving mother that the school food was safe for children and that L1 had most likely gotten it from her classmate rather than the food.
Not only that, L1’s school uploads pictures of their food daily via their phone app. Here’s an example:
After breakfast, the children will generally head upstairs to do some exercise. The last time I was there, one of the kids’ activities included walking along an oval. This routine is very deeply ingrained in L1, who—at the sight of a fat line to walk on—will start tiptoeing along its line.
Next up is their DIY class. Every child has an assigned space on the floor or on the table and are in charge of bringing over their own mats (when necessary). Some of the teachers have mentioned that this is L1’s favorite activity. She loves putting her hands to work and sometimes gets mad when she’s bothered. Here’s a picture:
Snack time will come next, and fruits are generally served. This is followed by a reading activity or a trip to the playground outside their door. Unfortunately, our playground has also become a feasting ground for mosquitoes, and I’ve requested the Head Teacher to not bring L1 to the playground anymore. I realize I might sound like a wet blanket, but L1’s 15 minutes of fun isn’t worth a whole night’s worth of nonstop “Mommy, so itchy!!!”‘s. To make matters worse, the black scars across her legs are making her look diseased.
During her first two months, L1’s English teacher became her favorite by default, since she was the only one she could communicate with. It’s her class that she goes to after the kids visit the playground. She generally loves participating in English class…except when it’s time to play games. Interestingly, when her teacher shared this dislike for games she also added that L1 says it’s because “mommy doesn’t like it.” You can imagine my surprise! I have no idea why she said that!
The children’s start growling around 11:30, and they troop back to the dining room to wait for their meals. Children are expected to eat by themselves and then wash their own hands afterward by themselves, and I’m quite proud to say that L1 can already do that because that’s how we do it at home as well.
Some children stay for half the day, and the rest stay until late afternoon. For those who are expecting their parents at 12, they will wait within the common room’s play area. The children are invited to play some toys while waiting for their parents. Other kids just play with their teachers.
I’m not always on time, which I often feel crappy about. But when we finally see each other again, I can feel L1’s happiness as she puts away her toys and changes into her shoes quickly.
“Bye!” She heartily bid the Chinese teacher who brought her out to me today. It was the first time she didn’t put up a fight about saying goodbye.
As we walk away, for the first time since she started attending her Bilingual Montessori Pre-school she happily says, “I like my teachers!”
It’s a bittersweet moment when you’ve learned to let go—even if it’s just a tiny bit. I’m less stressed, and she’s also becoming happier in school.
It really is a beautiful day today. ?
*This post was written for the Multicultural Kids’ August 2016 Blogging Carnival entitled “Schools Around the World.” Hope you liked it! ?
This post originally appeared on Bringing Up the Parks.