It might only feel like yesterday that the Little Boy was born, but here in Dubai children can start school at three – providing they pass ‘The Assessment’, in which your kid is expected to perform tricks like a monkey. Except it would probably be easier taking a monkey along than a stroppy three year old.
“We should have got his hair cut,” lamented DH, as I tried to comb LB’s overgrown mop into a tidy style on the morning of his first assessment last week. “And done more prep. A captain I flew with told me they’d done loads of prep with their son.”
“It’s ok,” I retorted. “He’s great with colours – and he knows all our names. Watch,” I said, running through our family names, only hitting a problem when it came to my name. “Cath-wynn,” he replied. Erm, close (she’s our nanny) but no!
“He can hold a pen – and count in no particular order,” I ventured, grasping at straws at this point.
This assessment – for a nearby school so popular it has a 10-year waiting list – was the easy one out of the two schools we’re applying to because we didn’t have to be there. A teacher came to LB’s nursery and ‘observed him’. All we had to do was get him there by 8 in the morning and keep our fingers crossed that he didn’t bite anyone in front of her.
I knew all along that today’s assessment for his older brother’s school would be harder, for several reasons. It was at 7.45am, we had to go with him, and every time we take him to BB’s school, it’s to ride bikes in the kindergarten play area, not be asked questions by a complete stranger with a clip board in a room full of kids he doesn’t know.
As I filled in a form about LB’s behaviour, routine, strengths and weaknesses, I was acutely aware I’d come across as a complete liar. “He enjoys playing with children,” I put, as LB – who’d just thrown the predicted tantrum over not being allowed to go to the school play area with his brother – clung to me for dear life.
“He’ll play independently,” I wrote, while DH tried to prize him off me, with no luck.
“And his love of Lego suggests a future Norman Foster … That is, if the accuracy he displays when throwing things at his brother’s head doesn’t lead him to play sport competitively,” I toyed with the idea of putting.
With ALL the other kids playing happily, DH and I tried using bribery, coercion and even logic to get him to participate, until finally a teacher came over and asked if he was part of the assessment. “YES … It might not look like it, but yes!” I fumed in my head… “Certainly not here, Mrs Clip Board, at this ungodly hour for the fun of it.”
If it sounds like I was getting stressed, I was.
From this point, it actually got a bit better. He ran through the colours, mumbled a few words, and drew a train. He flunked the numbers and refused to jump when asked (“That’s just silly,” I could tell he was thinking), but it was enough.
They emailed later to say that – pending receipt of his birth certificate, passport, visa, his fourth-cousin-once-removed’s passport, nursery reports from birth, finger print, iris scan and 20 passport photos – Monkey Boy was in.
In return, a G&T at the door would have helped. A lot.