Abstract: It’s always a battle of wits & games of one-upmanship in our family affairs. The two boys and me versus My Excellency, whom the boys called Tiger Mum behind her back. The girl stayed neutral. She was too engrossed in her studies.
William was 6 years when he was enrolled to a kindergarten school. He would get up at seven in the morning. The maid would prepare his breakfast. By 7:45am my father would walk him to the school which was nearby.
On working days, My Excellency and I would leave the house around 8:00am to our office. We seldom saw William in the morning.
One fine morning, by providence, we had to go out early to run an errand. Lo and behold, it was not a fine morning for William. It turned out that it was not a fine morning for me too.
He was luxuriating on a sofa. He was reading his favourite Doraemon comic strip. Both his legs were on a stool. One of his feet had on a sock. The maid was kneeling in front of him. She was putting on the other sock for William.
The maid was very fond of this kid. She did every menial task for him. She treated him like a princeling. She was giggling and talking softly to his inattentive ears.
Which was totally against the orthodox and strict teaching of My Excellency. She ruled the house with a bamboo cane, a thunderous voice and a quick and volatile temper to boot. She wanted the kids to be on their own. The maid was to serve her, and not the kids.
When William and the maid saw My Excellency, they were like seeing a ghost that suddenly materialized from nowhere.
The maid hastily stuffed the sock into his feet. William shoved his Doraemon into his school bag. He promptly got up to fetch his own shoes from the rack. If we had a cat in the house, the cat would have scooted off fast.
Too late for the little King to be…My Excellency saw them all.
“You lazy little fellow! Even for wearing your socks the maid has to do it for you!” My Excellency was in a rage.
“This evening you will be punished! You will have to learn how to wear your socks.”
When My Excellence was angry, we kept quiet. We had learnt the hard way. Ours was not to reason why. Let the tempest blew over. When she was really very very angry, it was better to disappear.
So in a jiffy, William got out of the house. His grandpa was waiting for him at the porch. The maid with her head bowed rushed back to the kitchen.
And that left me …to face her wrath.
“You are always the good guy. Why don’t you reprimand William?” My Excellency said, her mercurial mood was abating.
And so on and so forth, she kept talking. I should take up the rod, instead of her every time the kids misbehaved, or lazy or both. All sins of omission were suddenly placed on my shoulders.
Anyway, I was driving. My eyes were on the road. My mind was miles away. And as to the color of her dress that morning, I was not even sure she was wearing anything.
Evening came. We all had our dinner. My parents ate quietly. They retired to their room soon. Marilyna gobbled up her meal. She hanged around to see what was next.
William knew that he could not run away. Calvin stayed behind. He was always there for his brother.
“Fetch me 5 pairs of socks” My Excellency said to the maid.
“William, since you do not even know how to wear your socks, you are going to learn to do it over again and again” My Excellency said with barbed sarcasm.
“You are to wear each pair of socks, take them out and fold it back. 30 times! There are 5 pairs here. So you have to do it for 6 rounds.
And you Calvin, you are to supervise William. You are to mark out on a piece of paper, one stroke for each time he completed the task.
Don’t you dare to cheat. And don’t lock your room. I will check on both of you.”
Thereafter, there was peace in the house. My Excellency sat on a crouch and followed her favorite HKTV series. The girl and the two boys trundled back to their room upstairs. I disappeared to my study room to read a novel.
An hour later, I tip-toed to their room. I opened it slightly. The two boys’ reaction was shock. They might have seen another ghost. Oops! It’s their old Dad. Their faces broke into a silly grin.
I got in and closed the door softly.
They were sitting on the floor. In their hand, each was holding onto a Doraemon comic script. A pair of socks were unfolded. The other 4 pairs were still in place. There was a piece of paper where Calvin was supposed to mark.
Like a clown, I stood by the door. I placed my palm on my face with my fingers spread-eagled. Then I exclaimed softly, “Hey, why don’t somebody switch on the light. I don’t see nothing at all.”
I squat down. I picked up the paper where Calvin was supposed to mark the progress of William’s punishment. There were 6 symbols, each symbol had 4 small downward stokes and a horizontal stoke, making it 5 counts.
Meaning, William was done with his punishment.
“Are you sure you did what mum told you to do?” I asked William.
Both of them tilted their heads from left to right, from right to left, synchronously. Two peas in a pod. They were grinning from ear to ear.
They knew that I would not rat on them. We were always in the same boat when it came to dealing with Tiger Mum.
“You are not afraid that Mum will come in?” I asked.
“No worries! Dad. Tiger Mum has elephant legs. When she walks the first step on the stairway, we can pick up the sound immediately.” Calvin said.
“The HKTV’s Chow Yun Fat series will end in half hour. Her ass will be stuck to the chair with super-glue until then.” He continued mischievously.
Atta Boys! Know your enemy. Bet that they had not come across Sun Tzu’s Art of War yet.
Hence, this is another episode of our games of one-upmanship with Tiger Mum.
More to come in later posts!