Well, I would say that my son didn’t do the homework, but when a Japanese kindergarten sends a newly 4-year-old home for summer vacation with an assignment like this, it is not really the child`s to do, is it?
The cover page seems charming enough. Our rabbit, bear and mouse friends appear to be enjoying their day at the beach, without a care in the world. But do not be confused, dear reader (if you even exist yet.) These anthropomorphic animals have a lot on their minds.
The first page of the summer calendar insists that my child- supposedly on vacation- continue to rise early every morning and maintain a similarly early bedtime. As if each day of summer vacation were just another school day.
Ok first of all, no. If summer vacation isn’t for sleeping in, what is the point? And I have myself to think about too. I mean, the very thin silver lining of my kids’ being home from school for 6 weeks, is that we don’t have to be dressed, fed and out the door by a quarter to eight. In a perfect world we will all still be snoring far later than that, wasting as much of the day as possible. That pink rabbit may look amiable enough, but she is not my friend.
Oh and there’s more. Below the clock activity are the promises that our children are supposed to keep every day, lest they risk not placing a coveted sticker on the chart. The first promise looks harmless enough: eat breakfast. This might be ok. The Little Prince has a healthy enough appetite, as long as the menu includes yogurt, pancakes, and no surprises that don’t include yogurt or pancakes. (For the safety of all involved, we make these necessary arrangements for him.) Reading between the lines, though, a classic Japanese breakfast consists of fish, rice, pickles, seaweed, natto and miso soup. This breakfast, I think, is more what the behaviour chart had in mind. To be clear I am personally a great fan of all these foods, just not of preparing them for for a 4-year-old who will invariably throw them back in my face.
Next promise: help around the house. Oh the Little Prince is very helpful. He insists on performing all sorts of noble deeds, such as being the only one in the family allowed to unlock the door of our home by putting the key in the lock and turning it. Even though he does not know how to properly put the key in the lock and turn it. So selfless of him!
Next promise: when going outside, thou shalt always wear a hat. There may be few other children in this country who could benefit more from some healthy hatwearing as much as my pallid princes. Perhaps they sense this intuitively, and that is why they vehemently refuse all things hatlike. There is nothing so offensive in my household as wearing a hat outside in the summer, even as I mercilessly slather their scalps with sunscreen to compensate. So that one is a Fail.
The fourth sticker promise is to always wash hands and gargle when returning home. Ok washing hands we can manage. In fact, my children of the pandemic love washing and disinfecting their hands, which just goes to show that humans can get used to anything. Whenever the little prince sees a bottle of hand sanitiser left out in front of a store, he assumes it is for him and must avail himself. This makes getting from one end of a shopping mall to the other quite time consuming. Gargling to prevent disease, on the other hand, is a purely Japanese pastime. So we will pass, thanks.
And the fifth promise is not to eat too many cold snacks. Obviously this homework chart is intent on taking all the fun out of summer, and that could not be complete without taking away a child’s ice cream. I hope you’re happy, evil rabbit.
So every day for the duration of summer “vacation” Little Prince was supposed to place a sticker on each applicable column, which include confirming the day’s weather (probably so we can’t cheat and put all the stickers on at once without consulting an almanac), if he brushed his teeth, and whether not the promises above have been kept. Oh and one more thing…
Look at the third image down….For those who don’t read Japanese, what do you think it is? My guess would be a kidney bean.
Nope! It’s poop!
In other words, my child has been asked to record, in sticker form, every time he poops over the course of six weeks.
Even after 15 years in this country, I am still too American for this. I mean, didn’t our founding fathers fight and die for our freedom not to share detailed records of our bowel movements with anyone? (except maybe a trusted proctologist.)
That, I think, was what really did it for me. What made me close the calendar packet and put it at the bottom of a drawer for the duration of summer break. It is only now, the evening before Little Prince is to hand it in, that I have dug it out, because I have to figure out what I should say when asked to produce it.
I’m thinking of keeping it simple.
“I didn’t do it,” will have to suffice.