Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gabriel goes to school

Gabriel was growing fast, now two years old and beginning to find his place in the family. His sunny personality and big smile still attracted passersby to stop and talk to him, but he knew how to upset his siblings and get his own way at home. He began to talk, a little, and was secure in his world of parents, big brother and sister and adoring maid, Aimee. His days were easy, a late breakfast on the balcony, followed by either a English or French-language playgroup or accompanying me to the mall, lunch with me or the maid, a long nap and then fun when the big ones came home at three when we went to the pool or to play outside.

One Friday in January at the playgroup he had brought along a toy elephant, and another boy began to play with it. In a split second Gabriel sunk his sharp little teeth into Daniel’s arm. As the other mothers gasped at the bleeding wound and bruise I had no idea what to do. Marc and Nina had never bitten. I couldn’t believe he could be so violent. I apologized to the mother, gathered up Gabriel and ran off. As Gabriel grumbled he had not had his snack I drove home fast with tears in my eyes. I knew I would never return to that playgroup. Later after talking to friends I decided he was either bored or needed some social training and my neighbour recommended a local English-language Montessori school where both her boys attended.

Although we had thought Gabriel would go to the French school when he was two and a half or three years old we decided to try out two or three days a week, and stop the playgroups that he would soon be banned from. I was getting bored with the social networking, endless chats about toilet-training and fussy eaters anyway. The Malaysian school year starts in January so he was able to start immediately. The school was run by Malaysian Miss.Tim, who seemed to genuinely love her job. The school was a rather scruffy house on a busy street in the suburb of Bangsar. It was not the green oasis I had hoped, but they had a slide and climbing frame, bikes to ride, and a white rabbit in the playground. Although the school was officially following the Montessori method the academic side was low-key. Some Asian schools pushed children to read and write at a very young age, which was something we did not want.

Gabriel’s evolving strong character was noticed by Miss.Tim in the first week. She told me he refused to sleep upstairs with the others for a nap, instead he brought his little mattress downstairs and slept next to Miss. Tim’s office. With his school uniform and backpack he looked much older and I felt rather weepy dropping off Gabriel at school. I felt nostalgic for our lazy days when he was a baby and the dawning realization that soon all my children would be in school and I would have to find something worthwhile to do all day!

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