Yesterday morning my baby made a joke. Which baby you ask? Good question. The older one. The baby who will be two in two months and who is looking more like a boy every day.

The joke: Recently, when V leaves for work Benji says “Bye daddy”. This is a development from when we had to sneak out without him noticing. I still sneak out. I tried to get him to say “Bye Mummy” but he threw a fit. Now he throws a fit before I go for a bath. Anyway. This morning, instead of saying “Bye daddy” he said “Bye Lala” (Lala is the name of our niece whom he bid goodbye on Skype over the weekend) and grinned. He looked at me for confirmation and said it again “Bye Lala” and giggled.

I know it seems lame but to a parent it’s a big thing. Okay, to this parent. From just wails to goo goo gaa gaa to his first word to more words to two and three word sentences to this – using language for a purpose it was not intended to produce an effect – is a leap. There were already signs that he had a sense of humour. He has his “funny face” which he does for us on demand. And sometimes he doubles up and walks in a funny way and laughs. But to do it with language and not the body, when there is so little language and your disposal, that’s different.

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Mimi is getting bigger and stronger. She doesn’t crawl yet but she tries to scoot forward on her bum and she wants to stand up all the time. I have a feeling she wants to get up and run – crawling seems somewhat inefficient and she has not put too much energy into mastering it, although she does get up on her fours and takes a leap, falling flat on her face. The girl has places to go and cannot wait to learn how to get there.

This month her bottom teeth broke through. You can’t see them yet but you can feel them. More and more, I am struck by how inefficient our bodies are – teething involves so much irritation and pain of the hard thing chaffing its way through the gum. Mimi, of course, solves this by putting whatever she can into her mouth but none of the teething toys suit her exact requirements.

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My babies have also started fighting with each other. They both want exactly the toy that the other one has. Luckily, Mimi is still young enough not to protest greatly if something gets taken away from her but I don’t anticipate this state of affairs lasting too long. Now that Mimi is getting old enough for us to feel that we need to give her more attention or risk her feeling left out, Benji is getting a wee bit jealous. He particularly dislikes her playing with “his” toys, so if he’s playing with something he doesn’t want her to jump into the game but the problem is that she is most interested in what he’s playing with. Sometimes, he gets another toy, gives it to her and tries to get on with his game but Mimi is not so keen on being sidelined. We’re bracing for battles ahead.

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My big dilemma right now is Benji’s kindergarten, which we need to apply for this year right now so he can start next year. I thought I was all sorted, having applied to four kindergartens – two English-medium and one bilinguial near our home, one English medium near my office – when of all thing the Tiger Mom book got me thinking about how lazy I am being by not enrolling Benji in Cantonese kindergarten.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but been to chicken to because it will involve more effort for all around. On the other hand, it’s pretty much our only shot of having Benji learn Cantonese, a really hard language to master as an adult and lacking knowledge of which means being shut out of a lot in Hong Kong. Not to mention that it is like practically free compared to steep English education costs. So by choosing English-medium, I am choosing the more expensive but less useful route for my child simply because it is easier.

Serendipitously, there was a kindergarten expo at a nearby mall and we spoke to a few local kindergartens who didn’t seem fazed by the idea of a non-Cantonese speaking kid in their midst. So I got all hot on the idea and shortlisted a few to apply to when a chat with my colleage revealed that the kids have homework even in kindergarten. Now, one of the things that put me off the idea in the first place was that these schools typically send all their notices in Cantonese and I would not be able to understand what is going on but I had not counted on homework, which would mean hiring a tutor to help Benji at the ripe old age of 3! So now I’m conflicted again…Arrrgh!

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