Secretly, Slowly, I Am Becoming a Rat

Recently, I find myself secretly, slowly, transforming into a rat.rat-race1

The ominous signs are there.

I get drawn more and more to the race that is unique to rats. You know — that frenzy race of sending the children to tuitions which promise to let our children achieve excellent academic results so that they can enter a “good” school. It was a horrifying discovery that morning when I looked into the mirror and found myself, with signs of whiskers growing on my face, contemplating whether I should pack the princesses off to enrichment classes for their Chinese, Math and Science. I just learnt that many Primary 5 students are already preparing for their BIG one – the PSLE (the national exam for all Primary 6 students that will determine which secondary school they can go to), by practising on 10-year series. Can I be blamed for panicking? The princesses are bright girls, but without extra lessons that teach them – well, extras, they will definitely lose out to their peers won’t they? What if they fail to get good results, have their morale bruised and spiral downwards henceforth, as a result of me not pushing them hard enough? How can I forgive myself then? I would have ruined them!

Questions like these bug me until I don’t even have an appetite for my favourite cheese.

Do I do what everyone (well, almost) is doing? Make sure that the princesses do nothing but eat, sleep and study? By doing so, I can tire them out so that they will have no energy left to argue with each other and (most importantly) with me. Hmm … it’s tempting indeed. Maybe I should go all the way and make sure they don’t get to rest until they have completed 50 pages of assessment exercises for all subjects every day? Who knows, I could well be the next (in)famous Tiger Mum and get to publish a book of my own!

“Whoa! Back up there!”

Whatever’s left of my human mind make a last effort to regain its power before I fully transform into a rat and enter the endlessly spinning race track.

“Are they failing their subjects?” Well, no, thank goodness!

“Are their grades below average in school?” Not exactly. They are certainly not top students but they didn’t do too badly in their exams.

“Do I really want to raise a child who lives her childhood doing nothing but study?” Certainly not! I want them to be humans, not some laboratory-trained robots who can score A* but knows nothing else about life. I want them to have time to go to the beach, to run around at the playground, to read, to relax, to pursue their interest be it in art or music or any other areas.

I had children not because I wanted scholars in this house. I had children because I want children as part of this family. My princesses may not be gifted but they are healthy – emotionally and physically. They may not have scored 90 for their Science, but they were able to discuss the law of gravity with their father and explain to me how the Earth rotates around the moon (oops, did I get that right? Or was it the other way round? Yes, Science was never my strongest subject!). Mathematics may not be their best subject but they knew who Einstein was. They have heard about Helen Keller, Ghandi and Mother Teresa. They knew that there has been an earthquake and tsunami in Japan recently and that people are suffering. They know what the sea looks like and they have smelled flowers and observed butterflies. To me, that’s A* already.

The mirror seems clearer now. The reflection in it is that of a woman, a human, and not a rat with whiskers and tail. So Princesses No. 1 and 2 will be happy to know that I am not rushing to sign them up for all available tuition classes — yet. At least, not until the next rat-transformation attack takes place.

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