I lost $200 this month and it’s not a bad thing. You see, I told my youngest sister, a first year student in NTU, before her final examinations that if she did better than last semester, I would reward her with a hundred bucks. She got a GPA, which I think is equivalent to what we call CAP in NUS, of about 4.1 then. To encourage her further, I promised twice the amount should her GPA be above 4.5, which is what she will need eventually to get a first class honours.

Part of me feels that I dared to make that last bet because I thought she couldn’t accomplish it, which would mean that my $200 would be safe in my bank anyway. This sister of mine doesn’t seem to study although she would insist otherwise. However from my point of view, all I see during her study break (ie the one-week break before examinations) is always of her sleeping on her bed. Notice how I use present tense? Because that’s what she has been doing all along. She can be bringing her lecture notes onto her bed and lying down to read them; five minutes later, she’s sound asleep. She’s always complaining that she’s dead meat because she hasn’t been making full use of her time to revise. Which I won’t deny and will always chide her for sleeping too much or surfing the Internet too much rather than studying.

That’s when she’ll deny and claim that she has been studying hard, which actually contradicts with her complaints. Considering how my other sister revises on a daily basis and practically locks herself up in her room to study before examinations, I don’t think so either. But I do not like to compare my two sisters because it’s unfair and unhealthy. Furthermore, studying habits differ from individual to individual and depend on many confounding factors like intelligence, memory strength, understanding, efficiency etc. I think both my sisters are smart and do very well in school despite their very different personalities, social lives and studying habits.

And so, I gave her $200 yesterday. Like what we Chinese say, 一言既出,驷马难追, a promise is a promise and it must be kept, even if it’s within family. That was when my other sister, the middle child, jokingly wanted to claim monetary rewards for me as well. If I would bet with her on her grades, it would only be likely for me to win if I bet on her failing a module. She got full marks for her SAP this semester which earned immediate looks of disbelief on the rest of the family (the youngest one called her siao), and once again landed her name on the Dean’s list. She hates to be on the list which other listed students would boast about, because she actually thinks that it’s very embarrassing.

She likes to be smart, she likes to know that she’s smart but what she dislikes is others just thinking of her as smart and nothing else, if you get my drift. I myself see no harm being on the list even though I feel that it is definitely nothing worthy to boast about. Luckily, my sis likes to eat the humble pie. She did complain though that the Dean should give cash rewards to all listers instead of the useless certificate which she only threw into her file without a second look after receiving it.

Her consistently excellent grades aren’t the reason why we didn’t have the reward agreement. It’s because my family doesn’t believe in it. My parents felt that children should study for the sake of interest, learning and gaining knowledge and that children should always work hard for tests and exams just because it’s only right to try one’s best at everything. I don’t know if it’s the way they brought us up or if they are really blessed to have children born like us, my parents never have to worry about our studies. We like to go to school, we enjoy learning, we do well in school and CCAs and we have good interpersonal relations. Furthermore we are close to our parents. Friends and relatives envy our parents like mad over the years.

It wasn’t until I heard from my friends that their parents offered rewards for each grade A in the “O” levels when I realised that I was missing out on a good and easy way to earn extra cash! I asked my mum who nonchalantly told me off saying that we should work hard for ourselves and not for money. I understood what she meant and never seriously brought it up again, except jokingly. Honestly I think my parents could never have afforded to pay us for all the “A”s anyway. 

Thus, no, I don’t believe in associating monetary rewards with grades but why then did I offer it to my sister? Because she’s all grown up now and understands the point of studying. The reward may be a form of encouragement but is definitely not the sole nor main reason why she has to work hard. Of course both my sisters will love the extra cash. Who doesn’t anyway, but one likes to save it and the other prefers to spend it. It’s the little one who’s the most mercenary in the family (even though she’s still a sensible girl as compared to other reckless young spendthrifts of modern times) which is why the monetary reward will work for her and not for the other sister who never asks for it as well. Unlike the baby who actually went on to ask from my mum after getting my money.

Needless to say, she would never manage to get any from Mum.

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