Friday, 16 October 2009

A young boy's initiative

This post is somewhat an extension of the previous entry. It is a story about my eldest son, not quite about what he said that caught me off-guard but rather, what he did. It happened many years ago when he was still in Year 1 of primary school.

When it was time for Along to start primary school, we enrolled him at Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Sri Amar, which is located in a neighbouring area across a trunk road from where we stay. There is another school within our neighbourhood that is nearer but we chose to send him to the other school because some of the teachers there are our family friends.

On his first day, I sent him to school in my car. Year 1 students are in the afternoon session and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. The school compound was understandably rowdy with nervous young children and anxious parents facing the start of a new experience. The sound of crying kids and voices of cajoling moms could be heard here and there. My son was as cool as a cucumber… no tears or tantrums from him.

After the students had entered their classrooms, I left the school to return to my office. Later in the evening, I went back to the school to fetch my son. How was his day, I asked. Oh okay… made some new friends, he replied. Not a talkative type, this eldest son of mine.

The next day, I took an early lunch break to go home, fetch my son and send him to school. This time, I just dropped him at the gate because he already knows how to get around. I returned to the office and got busy with work. I was tied down in a meeting and realised a bit too late that I need to fetch my son after school. I rushed out of the office and headed for the school, which is actually not really that far away. Thankfully traffic was not that heavy.

As I reached the last turn of the road about a few hundred metres to the school, I noticed a small schoolboy in the distance, walking on the roadside towards my direction. Poor boy… I thought, to be walking home alone. Why aren’t his parents fetching him or arranged for a school bus?

As I got closer to the boy, I was hit by a bolt of shock. Goodness me, the walking schoolboy is my own son!

I slowed down the car and then stopped when I reached him. I opened the passenger door and my son climbed in. It took me a few moments to recover from the surprise… before I managed to calmly ask him, `Along nak pergi mana jalan kaki ni?’

He simply replied, `Along nak balik rumah la. Habis tu, lama Along tunggu Abah… tak sampai-sampai.’

My next question,`Along tahu ke jalan nak balik rumah?’

`Tahu… ikut jalan yang Abah drive masa hantar tadi,’ he answered confidently.

I was momentarily at a loss for words. The route from my house to the school follows a roundabout way because of a 6-lane trunk road that separates the two areas. The driving distance is almost 3km but a route on foot (if you so wish) is half of that. If I had not crossed paths with my son, he would’ve walked 3 kilometres along unfamiliar roads. The thought of him having to cross the busy trunk road gave me the shudders.

I wasn’t sure what I felt at that time but I guess overall, it must have been a huge sense of relief. I was not angry with my son because it was actually my fault for not giving him instructions on what to do in case I was late. He had taken the initiative to find his way home… the least I can do is to give him credit for that.

As my son settled himself in the car seat as if nothing has happened, I drove towards the school and parked by the roadside in front of the gate. We both got out and I held his hand as we walked back into the school compound towards the canteen. The compound was largely quiet by then… only a few children left waiting for whoever or whatever to take them home.

We reached the canteen and sat side by side on a bench. I then carefully spoke to the him, `Esok atau lusa, kalau Abah lambat datang nak amik Along… jangan pegi mana-mana ye… Along tunggu kat kantin ni, sampai Abah datang, okay?’

`Okay,’ he said.

We walked back to the car and headed home but not before stopping at a coffee shop for a drink. I guess the drink was more for me to reflect on the situation rather than anything else. I ordered Nescafe for myself and ice-cream for my son. I silently watch the young man eat his ice-cream and wonder how a 7-year old boy can be brave enough to make such a decision. I was never that brave when I was his age.

The following day, I made sure I left the office in time to reach school before the kids get out. To test if he understands my instruction, I purposely parked the car some distance away and out of sight. When the classes were let out, I spotted my son among the hundreds of other children. He had a look at the gate where all the other parents were waiting. When he couldn’t see me, he walked back to the canteen and waited there. I stood by a little while longer, just to make sure.

It has been thirteen years now since that incident. Along is now into his third year at a university in Jordan. In that time, he has already made two trips (with friends) to the holy land in Mecca to perform umrah and one trip (alone) to London to visit his uncle (my youngest brother) during winter break.

May the Almighty always watch over you, my son.

30 comments:

DrSam said...

Salam. You have taught him well. I hope my sons will be as brave as your Along.

Aizan Suhaira said...

My parents sometimes forget to pick me up from school during my schooling years. There was one time my mom picked my sister up (her school was opposite mine) but drove off not realizing I was walking towards her car.

I once also waited for my dad to come pick me up. It was already dark whem my mom frantically looked for me in school.

Lesson learnt. That was the time I told my parents not to bother picking me up. I'll get home on my own.

Anyway, I was in high school that time. Doesn't beat your son's spunky act of walking home from school at the tender age of 7 :)

Chahya said...

Somehow it was 'safer' back then. Just like your son, I remember being an 8 year-old walking home about 1km away along quite a lonely road which was sandwiched by jungles. I was either oblivious to the dangers or I was fearless then ...iskkk :P
Now I shudder thinking what could have happened given today's scenario.
I must be grateful to the Almighty.

D said...

Oh, thank you for sharing your story!

I still worry about my boys cycling to school! But at the end of the day, I must seek His help and guidance, as well as teach the boys to be responsible. I'm no superwoman... :)

VersedAnggerik said...

Kudos to your son on his bravery!

My Husna cried at the school gates, the first week of school, just because I was 10 minutes late!

The difference between boy and girl erk?

Snakebite said...

long time ago, on a fisrt day of school, i was riding my bike on busy jalan ipoh when i notice a small school boy by the roadside trying to cross the road but can't.

i stopped, get down from my bike and asked, adik nak sebrang jalan ke? he nodded. i said mari ikut abang (masih abang masa tu). the little kid took my hand and followed me. i took him to the pedestrian crossing with traffic lights in front of hsbc and taught him how to cross. adik tunggu sampai lampu tu hijau pas tu adik seberang. he ran quickly when the lights turned green.

on the way back i was wondering what kind of parent would let their child go home from school on his first day by himself. how would the child know how to cross a road like jalan ipoh. what if i am not the nice kind of person and took the child away?

after reading your post i wonder whether the parent was late and the child went home by himself. did he know how to find his way home? what about the parent who went to his school and can'r find his child there?

HLiza said...

What your son did reminds me of what my youngest brother did when he was in Year 1..and he reached home..those days no handphones to inform that my dad was tied up in a meeting. My daughter stayed in school waiting but had cried and alerted the whole school once. My son was cool when it happened during his time..he spent the time buying 'jajan' and touring the whole school!

this post and your fatherly love touches my heart deep...

NanaDJ said...

Scary isn't it but such a brave boy!
These days we do not know what danger lurks outside the school. We heard about strangers trying to lure children to follow them one even entered the school compound with some story or the other asking a boy to follow him.
With the all the children grown up, we now worry about our cucu. The advent of hp is godsend.Once when his after school activity was cancelled he borrowed one of the parent's hp and called us. But that does not stop us from worrying.

Patricia said...

What a beautiful story, Fadhil. Every now and again, when you find this voice that tells an old, but not forgotten story, you remind why I never fail to return to your blog.

I simply enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing this touching father-and-son experience.

Oldstock said...

Doc,

I'm sure your sons will be brave too... because they have a terrific dad.

Oldstock said...

Aizan,

Your mom missed picking you up on purpose ke? Rasa kecik hati tak... heheheh.

Oldstock said...

Chahya,

Yes, dulu kita takde sangat security and safety concerns macam sekarang. Nowadays, we read many stories of missing children. Sampai sekarang kes Nurin tak dapat diselesaikan oleh polis.

Oldstock said...

D,

I understand your concerns about your boys cycling to school. The are many perps out there but if we worry too much, then our kids would not learn to be independent. At least your boys have each other's company.

Remind them to be wary but at the same time give them lots of encouragement. For what it is worth, I think you already are a superwoman for what you have achieved thus far.

Oldstock said...

Verse,

Some girls cry because they want to make a statement. In Husna's case, she probably wants you to know that you should never, never, never, ever be late again :-)

Tapi sekarang dia okay, kan?

Oldstock said...

Tok snake,

You're a kind-hearted man. It is situations like these that give opportunity to criminals to do their stuff.

I know sometimes some parents are forced by circumstances (poverty, for example) to let their kids walk to school on their own. Hopefully one day our nation would have the capacity of not only giving free quality education to our children, but also assure their safe travel to and from school.

Oldstock said...

Hliza,

Your youngest brother must also have a brave heart. I am sure today he has become someone who's not afraid to try anything new.

Your daughter cried but your son remained cool. One up for the guys, yeay!

Oldstock said...

Hi NanaDJ,

Stories of missing children always saddens me. I cannot imagine the trauma the parents of missing children face. My aunt once lost her young daughter during a busy shopping day at Sogo KL. The girl was later found by the store's security personnel... but you can guess the panic the mother felt.

On a related note, I wonder if you have watched a recent movie called The Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie. It's a story about missing children.

Thanks for dropping over. Always nice to have new commenters come over.

Oldstock said...

Pat,

You flatter me too much but thank you all the same :-)

Blogging is a wonderful way of keeping record of life's wonderful moments and unforgettable experiences. I just need to find the energy and time to write them. I am basically not a very hardworking person... but reading the encouragement of my readers sure help.

Aizan Suhaira said...

Oldstock... actually I got used to being forgotten about. But I think mom feels kinda guilty bcos nowadays I almost always get what I want. Teeheehee....

drwati said...

salam mr oldstock,

your son, independent but obedient, nice combination...he will go far :)

i agree with Patricia..have been your silent reader for quite sometime now

please tell me if Mrs Oldstock has her own blog, you know why (Mamaboyz Club) :-)

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Old Stock, very interesting story of your son.
Glad to read he's doing well now.

This brings back my own memory....my 1st day of school....my mother sent me to school by trishaw. She waited that half day for me.

2nd day, after dropping me off, she left for home.
Being 6 years old, I looked for her, then walked home 5 miles.
The teacher, everyone hit the panic button, and the police found me 3 miles away.

You can imagine my mother's fright see cops knocking the door with me beside them. Not sure what transpired between her and cops....they drove me back to school and promised to put me in jail if I ran away again.

Thus I was the only kid being brought to school in a police van...and never ran away again.
But I guess the teachers wished I had as few years later snakes and iguanas somehow appeared regularly in class....I was the usual suspect, ha ha, Lee.

Zendra said...

Dear Oldstock, in the six years he was in Jordan, my son Amin was able to perform the haj only once due to visa limitations imposed by the Saudi govt. Your Along indeed very fortunate he got to go twice. Now with the H1N1 scare, he would probably get to go every year. Syabas, you guys have raised him well :)

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Salam Encik Oldstock,

I just love this parenting method of yours, well done! This is what u call the ‘Kite-Flying’ method. You as a parent still having control with the string and your child as your very own special home made kite (made with love & passion).

With abit of apprehension, u give the kite the freedom to fly wherever the wind takes them and u ‘ulur-tarik’ as and when u see fit, all at the same time, constantly keeping an eye (from a distance) where it flies, avoiding other ‘dangers’ like trees, power lines, other rogue kites trying to cut your string off. Eventually, one fine day, you’ll be confident enough to just cut the string off and hope that they’ll land in a beautiful place and be well taken care of.

Huh, make sense or not? Errr never mind, my fly kites days are all behind me already anyway…hahaha.

Moh mun thye, ok.

Tommy
P/S - C'mon Buddy u r not that 'old' to be call Oldstock mah :)

Oldstock said...

Aizan,

I trust your mother forgetting about you those years ago didn't affect you too much. You turn out okay, right? :-)

Oldstock said...

Salam Dr Wati,

At last I manage to coax you into commenting :-)

Very sorry la Doc, the missus is not IT-savvy. She only goes online to YM with our son in Jordan. Itu pun pada mulanya I had to set up the Yahoo account for her.

Oldstock said...

Hi Lee,

So you also walked home from school all alone huh? Even from very young you have shown your true colours eh? Hehehe... thanks for sharing the story. You take care now. I read it's getting colder over there in Canada.

Oldstock said...

Zen,

Your Amin got to do the haj. That in itself is better than 2 umrahs.

I still hadn't got the chance to ask my son if he knows you Amin. But since he reads my blog once in a while, I'll let him respond directly.

Oldstock said...

Hi Tommy,

That's a lovely anology. It works with the eldest one. The other two boys require a slightly different approach.

The Oldstock name was coined by some friends when I was still a teenager. If you think that I am not that `old' now, just imagine how it was when I first got the nickname, heheheh. But it was okay by me then, so it's definitely okay now.

Justiffa said...

Oldstock - i guess its true back then it was much safer (re: chahya's comment). just to share, a close friend of mine only recently when thru a harrowing experience - her 12 yr old son was kidnapped by several men in a van but, thru the grace of God, managed to escape by jumping out of the vehicle while it stopped at a traffic light.

- you dont have to be small and vulnerable (he might be skinny but he's almost as tall as his dad).
- you dont have to come from a rich family (the kidnappers asked him "kau anak org kaya ke miskin? kalau kaya aku simpan, kalau tak aku bunuh".. gawd, scary!!).
- you dont even have to be following a routine (they dont bother to plan, its all just random acts).

In view of all that, its tough not to overeact and not let our children out of our sight at all lol. But a balance must be struck between keeping them safe & giving them the freedom to grow.. which in itself is a huge challenge :)

My friend shared with me this advice from the police.. tell your children to walk in groups or with a partner, never alone. and the neighbourly spirit must be rekindled - look out for other children as well as your own and be alert to strangers around the neighbourhood.

Lets keep our children safe & happy :D

Oldstock said...

Justiffa,

I feel sad that your friend has to go through that harrowing experience. I hope no parent shall have such worries, ever.

In today's budget speech that I heard over radio, PM Najib has vowed to reduce our crime index by 20% next year. Police will be given a sizeable budget to improve their crime-fighting abilities. Hopefully, things will become better.