Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leaving the nest: When to let go?

I'm facing the possibility of a premature empty nest syndrome. Brian has been bringing up the possibility of boarding at his school ever since he completed his school orientation at the end of last week. Needless to say, he's having a great time at ACSI. He seems to love everything about it...the schedule is hectic, and since school started, he's not been back any earlier than 710pm. Today, he got back at 7.24pm after Wushu training. Yes, you heard that right, Wushu! lol, he's actually been to two training sessions, each lasting about 2 hours.

Not sure if his enthusiasm will still be there after many more weeks of such long school hours, but based on what my friend Slim tells me, her son who's in Year 2 in the same school is having the time of his life, though he is sometimes clearly exhausted.

Another friend Elan shared about her childhood fantasies of going to a boarding school. I too had the same dreams, fantasising about secret midnight feasts in school dorms, all from reading and re-reading Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers and St Clares.

My dad told me that if I did well in my Pri 5 national exams (like PSLE), I could apply for ASEAN scholarship and study in Singapore. This fuelled my dreams of being in a boarding school; moreover, I was always enamoured with all the different school uniforms I saw when I holidayed in Singapore.

So I worked really hard for my Pri 5 exams, even drew up my own 5-week timetable to mug for 5 subjects (I was a very independent and motivated/kiasu 11-year old). Well, I scored the full 5As, which during those days wasn't that common. I was soooo happy, thinking I could finally get out of Malacca and go to Singapore.

Then when the time came, my dad, on the advice of his friends who said I was too young (and probably cos he couldn't bear for me to leave home at 12), said I shouldn't apply for Asean scholarship just yet, but only after my Form 3 national exams. I felt sooooo cheated and resentful. I think I cried and sulked for days. Anyway, by early secondary, I lost a lot of motivation to study cos discovered...BOYS!! So didn't do very well in my Form 3 exams and didn't bother to apply for the scholarship. I always wonder what could have been had I gone to Singapore as an Asean scholar in Sec 1.

And now I'm facing the same predicament my dad faced almost 30 years ago. Now I finally understand the dilemma faced by him. When I hold Brian back, am I doing it for me or for him? Is it time to learn to let go or is a 12-year old just too young to make such decisions? It doesn't help that I've heard such great things about ACSI's boarding school, from friends like Slim, Li Ping (whose colleague's wife is a hall master there) and from reviews by parents whose children have developed so well because of their stay there.

My head says let go, my heart says Not yet! In any case, it's not as if this is between 1980s Malacca vs Singapore schooling, he is returning to a unique, wonderful, international schooling experience. Why does he need to think so far into the future, about being well-prepared for IB, about being able to keep up? Sigh...I told him he's 12, he shouldn't be worrying about such things now, that's what the through-train programme is for right?..."You've worked hard for PSLE, now just enjoy the fruits of your labourlah, you already got into ACSI!".

Well, as with so many decisions I've made in my life (some with disastrous results), for now, I will go with my heart. Let's see if more prayer and time will lead to a different decision...


Elan said...

Dear Lillian,
This is such a thoughtful post. I'm so thankful I don't have to make such atough decision. Brian really sounds like such a mature, far-thinking and independant boy. I think boys nowadays at 12 are a lot more mature then I was at 12.
If you do let Brian stay in the boarding house and he wants some home cooked food or just to relax in a real house. He will be welcome at mine, especially since we'll be moving even nearer to the school.

Lilian said...

Thanks Elan. You're right about kids these days, the way they think is so different from when we were this age. Sometimes they can be more sensible than adults.

Oh, and thanks for the offer. I'm sure he'd love home-cooked food and to hang out with C & D, hey they'll be B, C, D haha. My friend Li Ping also says he can go over to her place on weekends, relax and play guitar with her husband, who's a guitar buff. When Brian heard that, he immediately said, oh, yes, since I won't have Alexander as my guitar teacher anymore, Uncle Yong can be my's like all the pieces falling together in his grand boarding school plan. Hmm...and I think I saw a guitar in your house too :)

monlim said...

Wow, such an honest, heartfelt post. I totally understand your dilemma, no matter what decision you finally come to, there will be a twinge of "what if".

As I mentioned, Brian is so mature and independent for his age to be able to think for his future and this is something to be thankful for in itself. I actually posed the question to L-A yesterday, would you stay here alone without your family at this age. She said, "if you are all overseas and I'm in SG, I'll do it. But if you're all here and I have to study overseas, I wouldn't!" Haha, so there's something about our SG system that breeds loyalty, you think??

Anyway, thanks for sharing and I will continue to pray for you that you will know the right choice. If God leads, you can't go wrong :)

Lilian said...

All these "what ifs"...I know other mothers based overseas who have sent their children back for secondary schooling, or are trying to cover bases like I did by gaining a secondary school place through PSLE. It says something about the positive changes that have been made to secondary school education these past years. I don't think it's perfect, in fact, I think there's still too much expected of kids, but what to do, this is the real world.

Haha, I don't know if it's loyalty, or effective National Education aka brain-washing :D Whatever it is, it's obviously working on our young ones.

Yes, will let God lead, please smack me in the head if I continue to fret over this. I'm not gonna think about this (much) anymore, this year is about ME! not you Brian!! Your year was last year, so take a chill pill pronto!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was not aware that you needed to make such a major decision, I thought it was just orientation and then back to Moscow. But I did wonder why was the orientation so critical.

If I were you, I would not be able to let go...because being overseas, I tend to want to keep the family together even more. Leaving one in SG just does not feel right.

If I were Brian, I would be so happy to be doing this on homeground, a place I am familiar with. I tend to agree with L-A staying back in SG alone is fine. It is not so much about national loyalty or credit given to our gahmen. It is more about having less to deal with. If secondary school opens up alot of new discovery and exploration, then being familiar with other things will help them to adjust better, especially if parents are already not with them to help with all the day-to-day stuff. Imagine every day every small decisions he has to make himself now... even simple things like what to eat for tea-break. Such things break mummies' hearts, I think I would feel miserable if I feel that I cannot be there to prepare the tea-break..but that is really a mummy's woe to deal with. But in SG, you know his choices for tea-break is ample and no need to brave any kind of weather to get it.

Also, in your case, you seem to have good family and friends support in SG to help Brian breeze along.

The only thing I am really intrigued and want to ask Brian is:
"Singapore education so good meh??" :P


Lilian said...

Hey QX, thanks for your thoughts. Hmm, I also thought orientation then cabut. The aim of PSLE was to gain a place in a good secondary school so that if we were posted back, we have options besides just international school.

The school also said he'll need to be back by Year 3, which I should have expected, cos any later and it would really not be easy to cope. Not just that, as the school said, the friendship made amongst ACSians is life-long, and I think the camaraderie and bond amongst these boys is something priceless.

Re: Singapore education so good meh? haha...he says the school will prepare him better for the IB...I told him don't think so far! Not when you're only 12...Besides that, he is also really keen on the CCAs. Very deprived overseas, cos the school clubs and societies are not run so 'professionally' :)

Anonymous said...

Good to know there are still merits in this system. :) Have seen many suffered in this system and at the same time seeing some like Brian thriving in the system.


Lilian said...

Still early days, so can't quite say he's thriving. In any case, there is no perfect system. Once you know me long enough, you'll see I have complaints about every school and system. But every time I look back at our experiences in different schools, I notice each place has its merits. We just gotta make the best of whatever we are given.

breve1970 said...

Gee Lilian.. I often wonder what my decision would be too whenever I drive past the hostel and see kids donning the various uniforms ambling to the bus stop near Hannah's school. Its really not easy for you, Brian and the whole family.

I remember being close to a classmate from HK who was boarding at Hwa Chong then and how she used to hang around my place on some weekends to complete our projects. Think Sandy knows her too. My friend did share with me that she enjoyed her time at the hostel very much:).

I am also extending my offer to Brian of having a weekend meal with us should he be staying at the boarding house. No problems at all.:)

Lilian said...

You're just so sweet lah Ann...thanks for the offer. Brian's really lucky, so many nice aunties here.

And I know he'll definitely have a great time, no doubt about really, it's more about me being able to let go than whether he'd be miserable or not.