Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Starting Kindy

At last! Some photos!

I think I’d start off with Rosabelle’s kindy adventures. See, I actually intended for her to start school in September, when she’s about three years old, but thing is, I was planning to start work (reason for urgent need to start work will come later!), and I figured I’d give her a month to settle into school before I can rest my mind and go back to being a workaholic. So when we were in Singapore, I was already calling the kindy I’d shortlisted - Venus Kindergarten (thank goodness I made my rounds before we went back for CNY), but they did not have any more places for the March intake. Oh dear… a week later, I decided to try my luck and call again – hey presto! They actually had someone who pulled her daughter out because she was crying and she thus felt her daughter was too young and not ready for school (turns out it’s our friend from Kindermusik class!). Yippee!

And so, after we got back to Beijing on 17 March, we brought Rosabelle for a medical check-up where she had to fast the night before and was most cooperative when I said she can't even have 'milk, milk time' (mandatory check-up for kids to get cleared for admission, which seems like a strict and good regulation, but they don’t even require any forms of documentation/verification at the point of check-up or admission, so any other kid can pose as her and get the clearance for good health…), then let her get back into China routine for about two weeks. She was speaking so much English when we first came back from Singapore that poor Nainai was like ‘哎呀,玥玥,奶奶都听不懂,对牛弹琴啊...', haha! I got onto Taobao and purchased some customized name/photo stickers and clothes labels for us to stick and sew onto basics like her water bottle, bag, pillows and bedding etc.
I was contemplating sewing onto all her clothes but the teacher said kids should recognize their own items – turns out one day I brought an extra pair of socks to school for the teacher to help me put into the bag, the teacher lost the pair of socks. Haiz…

I also shortlisted some sweet-looking (i.e. pink) bags for Rosabelle to choose from online, and this is what she wanted when she saw the pictures – a black cat bag. Erm, ok… not very girly-girly, and I had to confirm with her a lot of times to make sure that was what she really wanted. When the bag came, she was gushing, and it does look very nice and unique – good taste, little tot! Best of all, it’s not like oh-so-common that every other kid is carrying it – just what I wanted!
And so, after we submitted the health papers, we could bring her along for two half-day trials, all complimentary. So that parents can try out their kids to decide if they were ready for school, and pay the school fees only thereafter. Before that, I’d already done a lot of brainwashing, like how fun school was with a lot of friends and nice teachers, a lot of toys and games and books etc, and of course nice things to eat. I also told her that only teachers and kids can go inside the classroom, whilst parents can only stay outside. On March 30, I was supposed to wake her up by 7am but I think she was so excited that she woke up at 6:30am on her own accord, looking all excited about school!
When Wayne fetched us there, she did not cry a single bit, getting all excited about the books displayed at the lobby (her form teacher Miss Zhou was there), then helping herself to the toys in the classroom. She even cooperated by following the teacher to wash her hands and sitting down to eat breakfast (they provide 3 main meals and two snacks a day, and fees are the same regardless of whether we send for half or full day). However, when the classroom door closed (with me peeping from outside of course), she started crying for me, and even led the teacher to the door to indicate she wanted out. I’m the sentimental kind, the kind who can cry thinking of sentimental things, and I have been preparing myself for this day when ‘my firstborn finally goes to school’, so I hardened myself up and walked away as I heard the all too-familiar ‘Mummy….mummy…’. Gulp. I did not cry not tear, but there was certainly a lump in my throat, but I knew if I turned back to pick her up, I would have started crying too, and of course it would have made her think kindy was a scary place that Mummy does not even dare to let her be in.

So off I went… for breakfast… since I did not get to eat anything as she’d woken up earlier than planned. So I walked, and walked, and walked… the surroundings were all run-down stalls selling roadside food that I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat, and I finally took a taxi to the nearest Starbucks for my early caffeine fix, heh! Since it was the first half-day, I wanted to be around in case they needed me to pronto, pronto be back and pick her up for anything (like as if there will be anything?), so I headed back to the school and hung around for another 1.5 hours, sitting in the administrator’s office, chatting with another Japanese mummy who was also letting her girl try out for the first time that day. Any time I heard anybody crying, I pricked up my ears and had to convince myself it was not Rosabelle crying… fidgety first-time parent I guess…

I went up to the classroom, making sure that she could not see me, or she would start calling out for me again. Here are some pictures I took of the corridor and outside classroom – the teachers display the weekly syllables outside (with some horrible Chinglish, I must add…erm…), and also the children’s artwork (but they need to be more proactive in changing the artwork – the little dog she folded and drew a face on is the only thing there for the whole month!).
As the classrooms are quite big, with space for play areas, teaching/sleeping areas, and bathrooms (though she complained before that when she sat on the toilet bowl, it was painful, and I found out later the toilet seat was really cracked and they had to repair it – heh!), I peeped through the windows and saw her clothes hanging there. Oh dear. Luckily I brought a spare change of clothing – turns out she was playing with water whilst washing hands and got her clothes wet (happened on at least two other occasions till I had to remind the teacher to watch her more closely). When I stood at the door at 12pm, ready to fetch her, her megawatt smile as she ran towards me just melted me. That smile could have lifted anybody’s gloomy spirits, or any dark room. I gave her a big bear hug and saw she was wearing her Nikes, and not the Crocs slippers I got for her indoor wear. The teacher said she refused to change out of them, as she may have wanted to leave at any time. Also, they did not bring her out of the classroom for outdoor time as they wanted her to just do her own thing, reading books indoors etc, rather than cry outside.

Conclusion: She survived the first half-day of school! Me too! Though she wasn’t the most cooperative, not letting them put on bibs for her during meal times (she let them do so after a few days), and not letting teachers touch/carry her, she would still follow instructions. However, and for over the next two weeks, she had a bad habit of hitting people (all mostly unprovoked) – hitting children when they cry (maybe she found them irritating), smacking her cup onto another girl, even hitting boys bigger-sized than her. Shudder! A poor girl about 4 months younger than her got smacked till she shivered and cowered behind other kids for some time whenever my girl came by…sigh!

When I brought her home, she was happy to play at the swings, and of course spent time at the books section again, though the books are in really bad condition, I must say… When we got home, I had Nainai prepare some soup for her to drink but her eyes were already closing as she was not used to waking up so early, so she went to bed for about 3 hours that afternoon.

The next morning, she said she did not want to go to school, but did not cry not protest nor roll on the floor (as with many of the other kids, as they had all just started on March 1, and I figured it’s just as well she joined them a month later so all the crying etc would be over, at least mostly, in the class, and the teacher can pay attention to her, heh!). I just told her blankly I will give her school bag away since she did not have any more use for a school bag as she’s not going to school. That worked nicely…

I must say I am ready proud of my girl – a lot of people tell me she’s very independent and strong, and is ready for school, but I wasn’t really sure until I saw how she took everything in her stride. On the second day, she let Miss Zhou carry/kiss her, and started tearing slightly when she came out from washing her hands, to make sure I was there. When I left, she still strongly held it all in, and went with another teacher to read books (I like it that the teachers don’t bluff/coax by saying ‘Don’t cry, your mummy will be here later blah blah’ but instead distract them with meaningful activities). Maybe she was consoled in seeing the kid from our neighbourhood, Baobao, in the next class. When he came in, she gave him such a big hug, finding comfort in the familiarity, heh! (We would at times give each other lifts or take taxis together, but as his mum works, they leave much earlier than we do.)

As I had a lunch date with my ex-boss, I asked Nainai to fetch her from school and she cooperated nicely, going to bed and sleeping herself after a light lunch, saying she did not need Nainai to accompany her to sleep.

The next day, April 1, April Fool’s Day, she officially started school – full-day school with 3 main meals and 2 snacks a day, one nap time of about two hours (she would be so distracted and not sleep, but the teachers will come by and sleep next to her, asking her to just close her eyes), 9am to 5pm. Could she take it? I waited with bated breath… as I went about the first-ever free day without her! Come to think of it, I have not had a free day without her around since October 24, 2008, haha! Another post to follow about my miscellaneous escapades sans daughter…

During lunch that day, I got a call from Miss Zhou reassuring me Rosabelle did not cry, and that she found two good friends, held their hands and went to a corner to play. Later that day, another friend brought her slippers for her and asked her to sleep together. So sweet! These days, the teacher has to break them up during lessons or they will chat/gossip during class. Haha! The teacher says she’s an extrovert, and has fit in very well, not at all like a new student., taking part in all activities and telling the teacher whenever she needs to pee (I let her wear diapers for the first 3 days in case it was too stressful for her, and thereafter only wear diapers when sleeping – she has had only once accident till now, phew!), and has a voracious appetite, not at all a picky eater. She has a good concept of the day’s schedule, and in the early days, told the teacher that after dinner, Mummy will come and fetch her, heh!

These days, after her early ‘dinner’ at 4+in school, she gets another dinner at 7-nish at home, then eats fruits, and before bed, she drinks a cup of milk, so you can guess that she has nicely put on some weight since attending school, haha! she gets into bed by 9:30pm and sleeps by 10-nish, so that I can wake her up by 7:15pm. She can mostly sleep through the night nowadays, unless she is coughing, which is not unusual given that she has just started school and it’s germs/flu fiesta time… Or if she pees and soaks through the diaper and sheets…

And so I shall end abruptly as I should be spending time on the next entry to detail more about her kind adventures – ciao! (Hell, I’m not even proof-reading before I post – how’s that for desperately trying to catch up on my backlog?!)

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