Children suffer the curse of having parents
By Nury Vittachi
It's no fun being an Asian kid. Nine years ago, I worked for a newspaper company which decided to give a free children's book away to each family at a party for subscribers.
"There's a neat new book out called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," I said. "The kids will love it."
The marketing chief came up with another idea. "Why don't we get a selection of books and let the parents choose a book?" she said.
You know what happened? When the party started, every kid made a beeline for Harry Potter. Every parent over-ruled them and chose a dictionary. "More pages, better value," one helmet-haired mother explained.
The kids were disappointed and the families went home with dictionaries, which I am sure are still languishing untouched on their child's bookshelf almost a decade later.
Six months after that event, Harry Potter fever swept through Asia and millions of families had to go out and pay hard cash for a copy of a book I had tried to give away unsuccessfully.
You know what? Children in Asia would thrive were it not for parents. The kids are bright, the society is dynamic, and educators are hardworking people who should be given MASSIVE pay-rises (yes, I am talking to YOU, employer of this columnist's spouse).
But teachers get a bum rap. They work like slaves, but parents shower them with sarcastic comments about short work days and long holidays.
To set the record straight, I asked my wife to let me sneak into her school and re-program the voicemail system. She refused to let me near it, because has this bizarre personality trait called "Being Sensible", which fouls up most of my most creative schemes.
This is the message I had planned for the school voicemail system.
Thank you for calling your child's school.
To harass a staff member in a bid to move your child further up the waiting list, press one.
To leave snide remarks about teachers having long holidays, press two.
If you can't pay the fees on time because your Porsche needs detailing, press three.
To ask that your incredibly thick, drooling offspring be enrolled in a gifted-and-talented group, press four.
To complain that your child's education is suffering because you keep taking him on holiday during term time against our advice, press five.
To request that your child's grades be upgraded so he can get into the same dreadful college that produced you, press six.
If you are a life-long monoglot wanting to ask why your child is not yet fluent in three languages, press seven.
To moan that the Parent-Teacher Association which you have never joined doesn't work hard enough, press eight.
To offer bribes to get your child higher exam grades, please press nine, and your call will be automatically forwarded to an anti-corruption investigator.
To complain that teachers are paid too generously, simply stay on the line.
Note. If you choose to stay on the line, you will be automatically assigned a role as a substitute teacher for class 5C for one school day.
If you do not wish to enjoy this experience, you have five seconds to hang up.
Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
Still on the line? Fine.
See you at eight o'clock tomorrow morning!