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Mon, Oct 01, 2012
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I'll miss those stickers on the wall
by Clara Chow

For sale: A five-year-old home full of love and memories.

While most parents these days are moving house to be in good-school "catchment areas" before their kids enter primary school, the Supportive Spouse and I are doing it the other way round.

This week, we are putting our flat on the market, in order to move nearer to a school after our six-year-old Julian has been accepted.

It seems like a no-brainer: Julian's school, his father's alma mater, is at least a 45-minute drive from our current place.

Factor in peak-hour traffic and jams on the expressway, and you're going to get a very stressed chauffeur-mummy and a tired kid who has to wake up early for the journey.

And, should he take the school bus, he is bound to be the first one to be picked up and the last to get home.

On top of that, our younger son Lucien, almost three, will be attending an affiliated kindergarten with different starting and dismissal times from his brother's. That means I will be making four trips a day to take them to and fetch them from school.

So finding an affordable flat in the area, hopefully within walking distance of the school, has become a priority.

But, as with all major decisions in my life, it wasn't so simple. When we bought our present home - just before the population explosion caused property prices to skyrocket, and before Housing Board flats started going like hot cakes - the plan had been to live in it until we were old and grey.

True, it is so far from the city centre that the few friends who deign to visit us remark that they feel like they are driving to Malaysia. But it is in a clean and quiet estate, our neighbours are the nicest people, and the eating-out options nearby are cheap and good.

For a while, we considered sending Julian to the school next to our block: a state primary school known for producing top PSLE pupils.

But the school is so popular that, even if one becomes a parent volunteer, balloting for a place might still be needed. It was simply less stressful to opt for the sure-shot alma mater, then move.

Still, the idea of taking out another home loan - just after we had repaid our mortgage - was highly disagreeable to risk- averse lil' ol' me. Some days, I think about it and feel nauseous.

I started to vacillate. Let's not move, I told my husband. I'll drive up and down every day (he doesn't have a licence) and you won't hear a gripe from me. I succeeded only in driving him up the wall.

We looked at some property ads, went to view a maisonette, and gagged on the astronomical (to us) asking price. We considered renting office space at a nearby industrial estate instead, to serve as both his work base and a "holding bay" for the kids before and after school. But even office space doesn't come cheap.

Which brings us to selling our home: After we find a buyer, we will rent for a year, while waiting for the transaction to go through, house hunt at leisure and, later, take our time to get the renovations just right.

In the meantime, I'm treasuring our last months in our home now, committing to memory all the little things we cannot take with us.

Like the little notches pencilled on the wall in the boys' room, documenting how much they have grown over the years. There's a separate mark, above the light switch, labelled "Papa" - the benchmark, awaiting the day that Julian catches up with, then overtakes his father in height. We will start that competition afresh in our new abode.

Like the proliferation of stickers that Lucien has embellished another wall with, each of which he patiently names for me every once in a while.

Like the quality of sunshine that streams in through our floor-to-ceiling windows, and the canal-cum-factory view outside.

Parenthood, I have found, is also a process of saying goodbye to one's best-laid plans. Might as well start getting used to it now.

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