He stared at the question and quickly-as-a-matter-of-factly scribbled this:
30 - 20 - 20 = __
"Your question got problem," he frowned.
I looked at him. He was going to take the private school entrance exam and if this question cannot be solved, I have no hope for him to obtain at least a quarter-scholarship (of course there is no such thing as quarter-scholarship).
"Think," I commanded.
He gripped the paper and ran downstairs seeking help from a mechanical engineer father. "Pa, do this for me."
I stared at him ridiculously. "What? I asked you to solve and you turn to your father!"
They both ignored me. Then another shocking news reached my ears:
"Eh, you don't give him this question. You look carefully. Your question is faulty," he said.
"Oh, diameter is like this," he said, drawing a retarded circle and a line jamming through the point of origin. From a clock, it looked approximately like 12.30pm. Then he extended a line from the point of origin and touched the circumference, such that this radius is pointing at 3 o'clock. "This is radius." He smiled.
I took his pen, and drew a radius pointing to 5 o'clock. "Is that a radius?"
"No." He quickly replied.
"It wasn't pointing at that direction," he signified with his index finger pointing to his right.
I was totally surprised. I rotated the paper such that the radius I drew pointed to the direction he intended. "So, my line is it a radius now?"
He scratched his head. "Where got people rotate exam paper one?"
Don't tell me. You should know what your reaction is.
Creativity seems to be the latest horror story to any child. I remembered my cousin's face suddenly folded over several times and let out a disgusted noise, "Use my imagination and creativity again?"
I nodded. It was a question of drawing a 10-metre wide circle with only a pencil and a compass.
He quickly turned to his papa and mama, whining, "Pa, Mi, if I give you this and ask you to use imagination and only..." he paused and revealed the tools I have given him to his parents, "this," he said disgustedly, "to answer, can you do it?"
His parents glanced at it.
"I have no time for this. Your cousin gave it to you, so you do it on your own," the mother said.
"What is it? Let me help..." he stared at the question long enough. Then he said, "I don't know. You go ask your cousin."
Then his face glowed truimphantly as if he is the king of answers. He shoved me the paper and tools. "Nah! Papa and mami also can't solve it. How can I solve it!" Then he turned on his computer.
I sighed. My parents are not university graduates, but they are my powerful encyclopaedia. They sometimes can't help me on maths, but they open my minds. I am glad I have such parents.
One day, his sister came to me, saying that there's a word she can't understand. I looked at it and it wrote "fertiliser" in Chinese language. So I told her in English is "fertiliser". She stared at me as if I didn't explain anything at all.
"What is fertiliser?" she asked.
Being a 8-year-old toddler, I couldn't blame her much. So I said, "You know, mami has plants outisde? The flowers? Sometimes they need something like tiny fishballs to become bigger and healthier."
She stared at me even stronger. "Huh?"
"You go ask mami. Maybe she can show you," I gave up.
She ran to the kitchen, found her mum and did what I tell her. Her mum came to me, wiping her wet hands on her shirt, "Ah, sorry to tell you, we don't use fertilisers. So I can't show you."
"Gor gor, how you draw so beautiful?" my cousin sister tugged at my sleeve.
"Come, I show you. You see this...?" then I began how my father and mother taught me about observing power. How the size and perspective matters. How shadow shifts under light. How things must be balanced. How object must be logical.
"Can you fold paper swan?" she meant paper crane.
"Can show me?"
"Till you know how to draw," I gave an evil grin.
You know what's best about an innocent child? They will give whatever it takes to get whatever they need. I soon saw her struggling to draw and ask me about the pictures. But I pitied her because she had to draw on newspapers.
"Meimei," I called her. "You don't have papers to draw on?"
"No. Papa mami din buy also," she shook her head with her sorry eyes.
I reached my file and gave a stack of A4 papers. "Nah, draw for me, every day."
She gladly took it.
Creativity is something to be explored. Seriously. If you have the tools, you make wonders. Don't ask your children to read, read and read. That's not learning.
One day we went to Sushi King. Me and her mami craved for baby octopus. So I grabbed a plate.
"Baby octopus," then I added before she put any wild imaginations on it, "it tastes very nice!"
Her papa suddenly said. "You don't eat one lar. Really one, you don't eat."
I ignored him and cut a tentacle for her. She cautiously put it in her mouth and grinned. "Nice lo."
Sometimes, as a parent, you have to give chance to your kids. Don't go laying conclusions when your kids have no exposure on them, unless it is not beneficial.