I spent the first day of the new year with my son, doing last minute shopping in preparation for him starting primary school the next day. After 2 hours of braving crowds and queues, we settled on his school bag (on sale at an outlet) and school shoes (good ol’ Bata). We slept early after dinner and prayers and woke bright and early the next morning to catch the half-hour train to his new school for the next 6 years. Parents also had a halfday orientation programme whilst the children had theirs in their classrooms.

This first week has been challenging as not only is our son adjusting to school and his new routine, but also the whole family having to adjust e.g. having everyone fed and quiet so that he can sleep early. The babies for some reason knew this, and have been waking up in the middle of the night as they nap earlier. After 5 days, both me and my wife were depleted, exhausted and falling sick. I woke with a splitting migraine on Friday morning and it has not dissipated since, mostly due to lack of sleep (most extreme was 1 night sleeping only 1.5 hours).

Emotionally and mentally, it has been mixed feelings graduating to becoming a primary school parent – a mixture of stress, fatigue, nostalgia, joy and pride. As I send my son to school everyday now, I am immediately transported back some 30+ years ago when my mother would do the same, sending me to school for the 1st 3 years of my primary school life. We used to stay near the old checkpoint, woke up 5am, on the old conductor non-aircon bus by 5.30am for a slow, long 1hr 45min busride through small roads, reaching school nicely at 7.15am. This was before the days of the MRT and newer expressways, and when it rained, an infamous canal would flood and we would be excused for being late for school. Compared to those days in the early ’80s, travelling to school or around Singapore these days are a breeze, despite the occasional breakdowns, train faults, and crowds.

Looking back, those first 3 years were really tough, but it also inculcated deep values of discipline and sacrifice on my part as a young boy. Although we now have a 2nd-hand car, and our son has been used to being fetched around during preschool, it was a conscious choice for me to brave the MRT crowds each morning with him, in the hope that this would start to develop discipline, resilience and self-sacrifice as he matures into a young boy and man. Children seem to be made from different stuff these days, just walking 10 minutes from the aircon train and station to his school, would render frequent complaints of, “I’m tired, I’m sweaty.”

I bumped into an old primary school friend during parent orientation, and after comparing notes, realised we were classmates in P3, and now both our boys were in the same P1 class. Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting and reconnecting with more and more old friends, all having sons now in the school. And to top it all off, one of our teachers, who came in when we were P4, is still teaching in the school up to today, some 30+ years already!

Watching my son walk up the stairs to his class and assembly everyday after reaching school, and hearing him get excited about visiting the library, making new friends, enjoying fun games at PE, learning new things, having his own travel card, library card, buying food at the canteen, makes me beam with pride and thankfulness. Proud that we have such a mature and good young boy, growing up, beginning his schooling journey; thankful to God for watching and nurturing him over the past 6 years, and for the opportunity to study in a good school in a safe and stable environment here in Singapore. Not every child has that privilege or chance, and I pray that our son will cherish and enjoy his schooling days, despite the gradual stresses and pressures.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22.6