12 April 2013


The Malaysian misadventure is full of thoughts of criteria.

Naomi needs to be peeled off me again to take her entrance exam at the only international school option we have at the moment. She has changed schools three times now, and here she needs to take a test. We spent the last whole two days trying to prepare her, but when the moment came to go in, she couldn't. They told me to leave her crying in the room. So I left. Pay RM350 to torture your daughter: what sort of life is this. And it will happen again, if by some miracle she passes the exam, in the autumn. Again and again and again. You can't protect your kids from change, certainly, but all this change, all the time? I am mad: the whole misadventure is mad.

What criteria do they test on, I wonder. They interview me and I feel confident and strong, like we belong here: we, this school and my family. I use those terms. I try to be amiable and likeable--I interviewed so much last year, it feels like a skill I have; I know what to say, I think.

Then she comes out of the test, sees me, waves and goes confidently with the teacher into the office. What the hell. She tells me she counted to 100, wrote some words, was praised a lot. Can we have ice cream now?

More criteria for testing: I look through CVs trying to help find another person for our new little School of English. A new family member in a way. How do you choose this person over that person? There is no test: this post doc versus that set of publications. I know that university, I don't know that other one. And then, of course, it's about me: how did I make it up a list like this one to be hired. Why did I get chosen. What other job might I get chosen for.

And then I have been marking my own students. I want to write them all the same comment, 'Forget this number, try your hardest, and be passionate... Work hard. Work as hard as you can. I gave you this number, but all I really want from you is hard work. Someone gets an 80 easily, another person struggles and fights for a 53. You want to be the person with the 53, not the 80.’

Naomi will or will not enter this school based on some criteria, but I suspect she is fundamentally not a person who does well in new situations that are high stress. She is exactly the opposite of me, in this case. She, when she takes her A-levels or SATs or whatever test she takes in 12 years for university: I suspect she will get all the books to prepare and practice tests and still, on the day, be hyperventilating. What can a father do. You can only protect your kids for so long.

I hope she is, or is becoming, a girl who can cry a bit, shake it off, and then blow the challenge out of the water. I sort of suspect that she is. If not, I'm sorry if I'm making things too hard for you, Naomi: I love you, I want the best for you. In a better place in the multiverse, we could all have what we want in the same place. We don't live in that world. So we all just have to do our best.