When my offspring hit the six-month mark, like a proud ‘Instamom’, I felt it would be a great disservice to the human race to deprive it of this great milestone, as well as the other possibly embarrassing and mediocre accomplishments of my offspring. All the same, the world had to know — at least the ones who still hadn’t blocked me and my bold confessions of maternal love supported with enough witty hashtags and red emojis.

‘One small step for my man, a giant leap for a mommy on Instagram.’

It was around this time that it dawned on ‘well-meaning’ strangers to ‘politely’ point out that we were spoon-feeding him while others his age — and perhaps even younger — were proficient in eating tofu with chopsticks and were already registered in the city’s elitist preschools. This was coupled with subtle hints that our child was clearly showing signs of delayed growth (‘Really? Still no teeth?’) despite what the paediatrician had said.

While marking milestones on Instagram, an Instamom learns what is best for her preschooler

But then again, he was just a paediatrician — what did he know?

So we sped off, panicked at foresighted omens. We compared different philosophies: Waldorf, Montessori, the unorthodox. We spoke to Tiger moms and Cat dads. We speed-dialled Mandarin teachers only to be told that we were four years too early. We speed-dialled preschools that promised success and the glory of Harvard and Yale only to be told we were six months too late.

Furious, I asked why no one had mentioned this earlier. Like when they discharged us from the hospital or during our regular check-ups. Not a word, not even during labour. Clearly, one has enough time during the long labour hours to give some thoughts to the preschools they’d be sending their child to in another two years. The pains and the epidural administration are evidently no excuses to put it off.

‘We’re not sure if it’s a boy or a girl, no we haven’t named him/her yet but he/she’s going to be here in a couple of hours so if you could just speed this up. Oh great! Thank you. Gotta run. Dying of pain here.’

We filled out thick application forms asking in-depth questions about our son’s personality traits, habits, future plans, career path and aspirations.

Fortunately there were some schools which, like universities, accepted applications six months before the beginning of the semester. We filled out thick application forms asking in-depth questions about our son’s personality traits, habits, future plans, career path and aspirations. I added ‘determined’ and ‘goal-oriented’ after watching him endlessly wrestle and gnaw at ‘Sophia the giraffe.’ The rest was all creative writing 101.

With enough evidence to convince the administration of our authentic graduate school degrees, along with assurances that he had inherited similar IQ levels along with other genetic traits, we were interviewed, approved and listed.

This was the easy part. Then came the hard part.

The offspring, definitely not a morning person, was visibly unhappy and unamused at being awoken and dressed at 11:30 in the morning to be shipped off to school and to share toys and exchange bacteria with other demanding toddlers. He made his stance clear by wailing at his loudest decibel and going stiff at the school gate day after day.

Every child is different and while this may work for others, it certainly wasn’t for us. Fortunately, we had the option to defer for another year and we decided to take it. We wanted to let him sleep in and enjoy his childhood a little longer.

As I was to accompany him to these, out of the two hours we would spend one hour pleading at the gate and the other making for the gate. After listening to ‘Wheels on the Bus’ on repeat every day in chorus with the wails (there were others like us), I felt the same way.

My thoughts throughout those two months: “Oh God, what were we thinking?”

Except that we weren’t. We were only doing what we had been told was best for our child.

Every child is different and while this may work for others, it certainly didn’t for us. Fortunately, we had the option to defer for another year and we decided to take it. We wanted to let him sleep in and enjoy his childhood a little longer.

So we handed him an abacus and let him do what kids do best: be a kid, create a racket and punch away at the numbers. Of course, like every other Instamom, a photograph of him smiling in a cubicle in his dad’s office went up on Instagram to mark this achievement with the caption, ‘One up-ed the preschool rat race.’ After all, the world had to know.

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 19th, 2018

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