this arvo, i was chatting with mother. we were talking about education options for the little ones (my niece and nephew) and the convo led to the past - when my elder brothers and i were little ones ourselves.
since childhood, i have always known that i was a little different from my family. my family is very traditional chinese, while i... i am like a weird little hybrid of a westerner raised with chinese ethics. i was the only one whose natural mother tongue was english instead of mandarin, even though mandarin/chinese slowly became my other first spoken/written language much later on. and i have always wondered why but never thought it was something that could be explained. i got an answer today.
when he was a kiddo, my eldest brother went to a community centre for pre-school classes. mother found that to be unsatisfactory because they were terrible at teaching english. they only had one language teacher who taught both english and chinese languages, and was only competent in chinese. so, when my second brother came along, he went to the same class for half a year before mother found out it was happening again. she immediately insisted on moving into our new flat then (ahead of schedule) so that she could enroll my second brother into a PAP (government) kindergarten class. that turned out a little better, but mother knew it wasn't ideal.
so when i came along, she put me into a private christian kindergarten. the fees were the most expensive, but we had english teachers and chinese teachers who were good at what they taught. and that was how i turned out the way i did.
when i got to primary one, it was there that i met the first of a chain of english teachers who loved me and doted on me. mrs soh gave me my first book, a hardcover enid blyton, 'circus days again', to encourage me to keep up the good work. i didn't quite understand why we needed to actually study english. to me, it was just something that came naturally, a tool of communication. i didn't know how to study for english exams, and i always did well (not the case for math, science and chinese though). i remember one day, it must have been in primary two - we had some english test papers marked and mrs soh wanted to reward the top scorers. she brought a huge bag of plastic animals! the top few kids could pick one animal each from the bag, and i was the first to go since i had the highest marks. out of all the exciting, large animals like the giraffe, elephant, tiger etc, guess what i picked? i picked the smallest animal in the bag - a little bunny. =) mrs soh asked me if i was sure and i nodded vigorously (because i didn't like to talk). the boys were so happy that i left the big animals for them!
as i grew into a teen, there were many english teachers i met along the way, feared by my classmates, but somehow always had a soft spot for me. i used to think it was because i was the disciplinary master's daughter in primary school - but i was a nobody in secondary school and it still happened. so i guess that wasn't the reason.
these mentors moulded me with their wealth of knowledge, and because i did not fear them the way my peers did, i was receptive to their guidance.
as i think of countless things that happened as a ripple effect of that decision to send me to a better kindergarten, i am extremely grateful to mother for everything she has done for me. i am not just grateful. i am amazed, that one decision at the right time of a child's life, can truly shape his/her future in ways you can never imagine.
what would i be doing today if my path had been different?