SINGAPORE - How times have changed, I thought as I sat in my son's school hall last week for his Primary 1 orientation. Our boy is among about 40,000 kids in Singapore who will start formal schooling next year and many parents, including scores of dads, had taken leave to join them in the lead-up to this milestone.
During my time, mums held the fort for most school matters and we were dropped off on the first day and expected to get with the programme, tears and fears be damned.
Now, the prep work starts months in advance. In the middle of the year, ahead of the P1 registration exercise, we received a booklet from the Ministry of Education outlining Singapore's primary school system and its objectives.
Then, earlier this month, my son's kindergarten arranged for the K2 kids to visit a primary school, where they got to see lessons in progress and buy food at the canteen.
The orientation, which follows roughly the same format across all schools, is yet another efficient round of rehearsal. Weeks earlier, we had received a letter from my son's school with details of the orientation programme.
While the principal, vice-principal and school counsellor took turns to address the parents on the day, the boys were shepherded to their respective classes for various activities. It was, as all parents would agree, a great way to acquaint them with their friends and surroundings ahead of the new school year.
Halfway through, however, it dawned on me that while it was our kids who were heading to school, the P1 orientation was also about educating the parents.
There were practical dos and don'ts that were spelt out clearly: If you are driving, place the school bag in the back seat instead of the trunk so that you won't hold up traffic when dropping your child off.
There were gentle reminders to let the teachers do their job: If your child gets into a dispute with another kid, do inform the teachers. Don't confront the other pupil on your own.