My son, age 12, is receiving his PSLE results today. This morning, he woke me up at 5 A.M. and said he will go down to check if the school bus was coming to pick him for school.
I said, “Son, the school bus isn’t coming. It is the school holiday period already. And your results are coming out at 11 A.M., not so early. I will take you to school later, and get your results with you.”
He is the first in our family to reach the Primary School Leaving Examination, despite being the middle child.
In another universe, his older sister, Faith, would be the one to do the exam first, but autism changed those plans when we discovered her developmental delay at age 1.
Like many parents, we worried for his PSLE results (although my wife is snoring rather peacefully now by my side, at 6:15 A.M., as I type this.)
You know in your heart of hearts that, in the grand scheme of things, his PSLE results will not be something he waves at his potential employer in a future job interview. But it is also naive to say there is no impact on the next step of his education journey.
Even though I told myself I wouldn’t be that hand-wringing parent, I couldn’t help myself.
But I am reminded by God that I should be happy to even witness Isaac reach this milestone. What I would give to see my firstborn take the PSLE. What I would give to see Faith be able to fail or pass this exam.
Her life is a daily exam. She is still learning to talk at 14, her repertoire of words include “Dorothy the Dinosaur” and “Auntie”, which we heard last week. The former is from her favorite show, The Wiggles, and the latter is what she calls our domestic helper.
Each song she hums is celebrated in our household as if she has gotten the top PSLE score in the land and is now the poster child for a chicken essence brand.
Each word she utters is celebrated as if she has gotten into the IB program in a top elite school that her father can barely afford to pay for.
Each time she goes to the toilet by herself without being prompted, thereby saving us one diaper, is celebrated as if she has won the Angus Ross Prize for Toilet Training.
So on the night before my son’s PSLE results, just before I succumbed to sleep, I wrote this poem to my eldest daughter.
to our firstborn, Faith, age 14
your mother said
maybe it was her fault
maybe it was
something she ate
something she drank
something she did
or didn’t do
some tail bone
that may have hurt you
as you pushed your way out
into a world not ready
for the likes of you
a world that didn’t always understand
just like you didn’t always understand
why your senses
gave you so much information
too much information
there is too much information
look at the fan turning round and round
shutting down now
too much information
rebooting in three
system restoring in three
wait she is back
back on earth
so much mars
but I said to your mother
it isn’t your fault
it isn’t my fault
it isn’t God’s fault
because you cannot
be a mistake
you are fearfully
and wonderfully made
and we fearfully
and wonderfully love