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I’m feeling crappy today. For the past few weeks, Mimi has been angsty about going to school. It would start with her not wanting to put some item of clothing on, or the correct uniform (they have a separate uniform for PE and regular days, which is subject for another rant which I may engage in if this rant doesn’t get too long.

It doesn’t help that the whole month of October has been unstable because we’ve had visitors, and then a Mid-Autumn break. The latter seems to have given her the idea that school is not inevitable. I was surprised that she went fairly peacefully the first couple of days, but after that it started degenerating. One of the mums on the whatsapp group for her class told me that she heard Mimi saying she didn’t want to go to school, and later, my helper also told me she had made a bit of a fuss. I hoped it was a one off, but a couple of days later she did a full fledged meltdown in school, clinging to the helper and refusing to go in.

The school’s suggestion was that the helper drop her off and leave quickly, which is such a standard school suggestion, it annoys me. Yes, this solves the problem for the school, but it does not address why a kid who has been peacefully going in and is doing well in school, is suddenly not wanting to go in. We had wanted to wait a week or so and see if the behaviour resolved itself, but I decided to have a chat with her teacher.

One of my suspicions is that Mimi doesn’t like school when she doesn’t have friends. From Nene’s experience, I know that friends make a world of difference. Which is why I was delighted when Mimi made a friend in school last year, and then frustrated when she appeared to be pushing him away. This has come back to bite her in the ass, just as I anticipated, because the little boy formed another gang and started rejecting her. And she couldn’t seem to break into any other circles because most of the kids in class prefer to interact in Cantonese.

I spoke to D’s mother and she was nice enough to restart the playdates. Mimi however after a couple started saying she didn’t really want to play with D and from my helpers’ reports it does seem that D and Nene seem to spend more time playing. It is so incredibly frustrating. While V’s suggestion is to just let her learn, the fact is that a little kid does not make the connection between her rejection of D and her having no friends, and instead I have to deal with the fallout in terms of tantrums.

Anyway, when I spoke to the teacher, she also confirmed that Mimi doesn’t seem to play with anyone in particular. Moreover, from her description it seems like the class time has a lot of “free play” which is all fine if you have a friend or two to hang out with while the teacher is working with other groups. But if you’re alone, like Mimi, I can see how it would get pretty sad. Mimi loves academic stuff, like homework, or doing craft and I can see how ‘free play’ would bore her and worse if she was not part of a group. The teacher has been kind enough to encourage friendships between her and other kids, but I know this easier said and done.

This morning again Mimi said she didn’t want to go. She refused to put on her PE uniform.* I said fine wear the other uniform and wrote a note to a teacher. Still, she continued to fuss. I told her that I could drop her. Instead she wanted me to pick her up. So I said fine. She instructed me “not to wear silly things” but to wear a dress. Seriously. It’s like I’ve raised the fashion police.

Unfortunately, I cannot go pick her up because I really cannot afford to spend the day at home and not work. And so I have essentially lied to her, and while there is a good chance she won’t even remember, there is a teeny chance she will. And I feel shitty. I wavered like crazy before coming in to work but because I anticipate more drama tomorrow as Nene needs to take a day off for an interview and it will be Mimi going alone, I want to save the staying at home for tomorrow.

The problem with flexible working hours is that you have to decide yourself how flexible to be. And your kids sense this. If I was working a regular job, I don’t think I would feel this bad, because I simply wouldn’t have a choice. And I wonder if Mimi would have raised possibilities that she knows are not going to happen. Today, a mom on a Facebook group asked: “How to deal with the mommy guilt?” It’s a familiar question, and the answers are familiar to. You just suck it up, remind yourself you’re doing your best, but at the heart of mommy guilt is really the question: Are you?

*

Now, the PE uniform is particular annoyance because Mimi has taken it into her head that girls don’t wear shorts. Even though clearly all the girls in the school are wearing shorts. First of all, I have a problem with co-ed schools having girls wear skirts and boys shorts. However, maybe that’s a blessing in our case because Mimi might throw a tantrum everyday if she had to wear shorts to school. Then, they have a separate PE uniform when they barely do any PE that requires a separate uniform. It seems like an unnecessary expense, not to mention that the PE t-shirt is white and gets stained easily. They also have a bag that we never use because it is boxy and large and I know my kids would fuss about carrying it halfway on the way home and the adult escorting them would be lumped with two kids bag and her own bag. Instead, we just leave the bag in school because there is really nothing of significance in it that needs to be carted home that cannot be transferred to one adult bag. Once I got raised eyebrows from the teacher about this but I held my ground. Bag-carrying is not a skill I am interested in enforcing at this particular moment.

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