Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dodging dad...

Everyday at 6pm, Isaac or Gillian would get on the phone with KH and the conversation would go something like thus:

Kids: "So er, dad? What time are you coming home?"

KH: "Don't know. Late. Don't wait for me. Eat first."

Kids: "Yeah okay, but about WHAT time dad?"

KH: "I dunno. Maybe around 8 or 8.30pm?"

They ask not because they miss their dear ol' dad. But because they need to plan. Isaac, looking very serious, would then say thoughtfully to himself: "Hmm, 8pm... okay, that gives me an hour to eat, have some ice-cream, read a bit and quickly go to bed and fall asleep before dad gets home!"

And the reason behind such careful planning? Feigning sleep to avoid their dad giving them the third degree about homework, checking work, correcting it, chewing them out if it's badly done, re-doing it and being given work for the next day. I laughed when I heard and told KH about it.

He grinned and said, I know what they're up to but I don't care. They don't have a choice. I know they are pretending to sleep when I get home. But I just stand in their room, and tell them as loudly as I can, what work they have to do tomorrow anyway!

Yep, KH is the real Simon Legree in this house. It is he who goes through their homework (every night when they do not succeed in dodging!) , coaches them, yells at them, tests them on their spelling/science facts etc, sets goals for them, assigns them work, buys the assessment books etc.

Not me.

I have long abdicated this role. Especially since we found out that I had high blood pressure. After one or two bad bouts with Gillian when my face went tomato red and BP shot up, I gave up. I also felt that coaching Gillian was a real strain on our relationship as mother and daughter.

So after that, KH and I now have a tacit understanding that I focus more on the three babies while he tackles the older two's schoolwork.

Coaching Isaac in schoolwork is not as bad as coaching Gillian. There have been many explosions in the Chong household over Gillian's work, especially when it comes to maths. I don't blame KH for exploding - because it is highly, incredibly frustrating. Her lack of attention, inability to process logic and sequence, inability to retain information... arrgh!! I invite anyone who pooh-poohs this to just give it a try - coach Gillian for a week in maths and see if they don't explode.

Nonetheless, when things look like they are about to really go bazookas (I gauge this by the increasing decibel level of KH's yells, the increase in the number of times he pounds on the table), I step in. And that's how we've always worked - KH and I - when one of us is about to explode, the other steps in and tries to defuse the situation.

The only thing I 'coach' the older kids in is English. I mark their work, check the compos, explain where they went wrong etc. But the last is something I hate doing, so I am (guiltily) quite laidback about this - to KH's disapproval! Nothing personal it's just that I find it so difficult to explain English - what to me is so natural and just sheer common sense. I hate the grammar work and can never fathom the differences in the terminology. To me, English is just English - makes sense in the way I write and talk. Now how do you explain that? So it's not that I am lazy about it, but some things are just so hard to explain!

So I totally take my hat off to KH. He works hard in the day, comes back by 8pm, sometimes later, has his dinner, starts work with the kids. And when everyone is asleep, he opens up his laptop and works until midnight or 1am.

I guess I am lucky to have him. It is a load off my shoulders. The kids though, don't know how lucky they are - they're too busy dodging him!

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