updated 20 Jan 2012, 11:00
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Mon, Jan 16, 2012
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My kid's Jekyll and Hyde moment
by Clara Chow

ON HIS first day of preschool, my two- year-old son Lucien stepped eagerly into the classroom, made a beeline for the toys - and left me outside, craning my neck to catch a glimpse of him, without so much as a goodbye.

And at the end of the day, as he filed out of the room with his new friends, I asked him if he had fun. My son of limited vocabulary nodded and replied decisively: "Fun." I know, I know: So lucky, right? Wrong.

This is not a column in which I gloat. Instead, this is one in which I moan about the strange mutability of a 23-month-old's moods and desires. And how school can be the bee's knees one day, and anathema the next.

Those with young children experiencing playschool or formal education for the first time will know what I'm talking about.

The morning struggles in which you try to coax said children to get ready for school, and the tearful, hysterical scenes as you deposit them there.

And the scary thing is, they can be right as rain at first, before being reduced to a quivering, sobbing mess a few seconds later.

One mum I know has been flummoxed for the past three days, because her three-year-old would practically skip to school gleefully, but burst into tears immediately when she is picked up at the session's end.

"I think she's feeling a bit emotional, because she missed you very much," I said, as the mum mopped her hiccupping daughter's eyes. "Or maybe she's just tired."

But I'm hardly qualified to give advice.

Two days after Lucien's promising, enviable start to Nursery 1, he decided to pull off a prison break when we arrived at school.

As we were queuing up for temperature checks, he started pulling on my arm, signalling with his eyes that he wanted to get out of there.

When I ignored him and refused to budge, he flung my hand away and took off down the corridor, in the direction of the exit.

"Ahmee! Come!" he called to me, in a last-ditch effort to get me to aid him in his escape. I ran over to head him off, which only resulted in him making a mad dash for the lift. He jabbed at the lift button and jigged about with consternation on the spot, as the hydraulic machine took forever to come up.

Too late, the doors "dinged" open, but I had already scooped him up and handed him - squirming madly - over to his teacher.

By this time, he was wailing loudly, as though we were about to be separated forever at some concentration camp. In one of those heartrending slow-mo scenes, he was borne away from me on brisk, business-like Miss V's shoulder.

Receding into the distance, he stretched one arm out plaintively towards me, mouth in an O of despair, tears and snot flowing copiously.

It was something completely out of a Taiwanese melodrama.

But when I spied on him 10 minutes later, he was playing happily with a toy-car-and- ramp set, while munching on some star-shaped snacks. Hmm...

For the next few days, the battle sorted itself out. The boy came down with flu, and had to stay home with a runny nose.

When we dropped his elder brother, Julian, off at the same preschool, Lucien would act as though he was very sick, lying listlessly against my shoulder while eyeballing his teachers suspiciously.

But once home, he would caper around the house topless and run rings around me. It struck me that I should enrol him in a school for actors.

I don't know if it's an upside or downside but, since school started, he has become super affectionate towards me, clinging to me and looking all over the house for me when I'm in a different room. Perhaps, separation anxiety has belatedly kicked in.

Still, as with all things related to learning, keeping the momentum going is important. So next week, as soon as his mucus clears up, it's back to school for him.

And should he try to go on the lam again, I'd be prepared.

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