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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Foreign Child's Fate: One School, Two Rules

When Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, visited Tom's nursery school last month, all the parents were treated to an hour of dances, songs and rhymes the children had learned to entertain the old graybeard.

Tom recited rather fast, but it was very moving all the same: a poem about delicate white snowflakes fluttering down through the air. He was so proud as he acknowledged the applause, you would never have guessed he almost avoided rehearsing any poem at all.

The thing is that Tom is just starting to realize how he can exploit his position as the only foreigner at school to his advantage. Tom would rather be lazy than tired and when rehearsals for Ded Moroz began a month before, he had no desire to learn complicated lines by heart. He decided he would rather play trains, so he told his teacher that as Ded Moroz did not exist in Holland he need not learn any rhymes for him.

Luckily, I figured out in time what was going on. I went to Tom's teacher to tell her again she should treat my son exactly like the other children.

For Christmas Tom's grandparents gave him a video on dinosaurs, a gift he likes to watch at least four times a day. Grumbling loudly, he went back to nursery school a few days later. "I'd much rather stay home to watch my video," he whined. Once he got to school he told his teacher that he ached all over from his nose to his toes and that she had better phone me straight away to fetch him home.

Alarmed, the teacher summoned the school doctor. But that wasn't Tom's idea at all. "I have a special Dutch illness," he said hastily. "The Russian doctor wouldn't know it." I saw straight away that Tom was only sick of school because of the dinosaurs and I gave him a good dressing down.

He has even tried the new "Dutchman" trick on his friend Leonid. Leonid is a year older than Tom, so he knows more and wins more often at games -- much to Tom's dismay, as he's quite a bad loser. Yesterday they played dominoes. "I win," Leonid shouted as he laid down his last domino. Crestfallen, Tom looked down at the three dominoes still in his hand and said, "but in Holland it's the one with the most dominoes left at the end who wins. So I win because I'm Dutch."

A little later Leonid asked him if he knew how much three plus four was.

"Eight," Tom hazarded, after thinking long and hard. "Stupid!" Leonid laughed mockingly.

"But in Holland three plus four is eight," he maintained stubbornly. "Just ask my mother."

I took pity on him. "Three plus four is almost eight," I helped him. He laughed triumphantly. "That's what I said, didn't I?"