Sitting exams vicariously

Perfection Pending

This post was written for a parenting blog hop hosted by Perfection Pending. Click on the badge above to check out the other blogs that have linked in this week. 

Exam season is in full swing here in the Law household. Younger son has papers to complete which will decide the sets that he will be placed in for GCSE and whether he can do the advanced science and maths modules that he hopes to take. Elder son is sitting the majority of his GCSEs plus a few AS papers, and has the most challenging exam timetable that I have ever seen. He will be required to spend two days in isolation due to clashes, sitting four important papers on each day between 9am and 5pm. How exhausting is that going to be? Daughter has her AS papers to sit, the results of which will dictate the universities she can apply to next year. We are living in a fug of stress, trying to find the balance between support and encouragement. We have another six weeks of this to survive.

On Monday evening daughter and elder son were discussing the challenges and merits of the universities they would like to apply to and I was taken back to my own decision process. So much has changed, yet so much remains the same. Whereas I did my research via handbooks, they use the internet and forums. I did not consider visiting the universities that I applied to; attending open days now seem to be de rigueur. Still though, it appears that the well regarded institutions for particular subjects have not changed over the years. This was a conversation that I could join in with, that was of mutual interest. With their research and my experience we had an adult discussion. For once I was not regarded as impossibly ancient and irrelevant, but as someone from whom interesting facts and opinions could be gleaned. It felt good.

So much of what I say to them as a parent comes across as me trying to tell them what to do. They often seem to believe that I have no understanding of the lives that they are required to live and wish me to back off, to allow them space to make their decisions unhindered. I have experienced another time that may as well have been another world given how relevant it is to their here and now. We do not talk as equals as we see what happens around us through eyes clouded by differing experiences.

This conversation felt more like a meeting of friends. I do not know if it is them growing up or me letting go, but they allowed their more typical guard to relax and I was able to see them as the amusing, intelligent and thoughtful individuals that they can be. I would be so happy if I could enjoy this more often. It can be exhausting being treated as a nuisance; a provider of food and clean clothes but with little else to add to their lives.

One conversation is not going to change the way we treat each other, but it has offered me a hopeful glimpse of our evolving familial relationships. Living with three teenagers can be challenging, but it is the potential for the clashes to damage how my children will see me in the future that worries me most. I want so much to remain close to them as they move into adulthood, and this showed me that it could be possible.

The only people who will be qualified to judge if I have been a good parent will be those who have experienced it, my children. I suspect that how I cope with this formative time will be critical in how they look on me in the years to come. When they no longer need me will they choose to include me in their lives? Despite the stresses that we are currently living under, I am feeling more hopeful that this could be possible than I have for some time.



Exam season


Perfection Pending
This post is part of a Parenting Blog Hop hosted by Perfection Pending.


Monday came and went this week in a blur of demands, discontent and unfulfilled desires. Life with three teenagers in the month before exams can be a challenge, although not as much of a challenge for the parents as for the teenagers themselves. I hate to see the pressure that youngsters are put under these days, it is no wonder that so many crack under the strain.

I have reached the stage in my children’s lives where I am often going to bed before they do. Instead of trying to keep the house quiet to ensure that little sleepy heads get their rest (which actually translates as ‘to ensure mom can have a glass of wine in peace’), I am lying in my bed exhausted wishing that my big kids would work more quietly and let me sleep.

Yesterday it seemed that nobody was happy and I needed that early night. We are having the outside of our house painted and the weather is against us meaning that the job is dragging on. I had arranged a walk with a friend that I had to cancel when the decorator decided that he would turn up after all. Obviously it is not his fault that it keeps raining, I know that he is doing his best. Nevertheless it is frustrating for me being unable to make plans and stick to them. He requires access to the house so, until the job is complete, I have to stay in if there is a chance that he may turn up.

My daughter has been offered a fantastic work experience placement at a hospital in Cornwall in July, but it looks as though she is going to have to pull out. She needs a hospital placement and has struggled to find one which makes this turn of events especially upsetting, and at a time when she is under so much pre-exam stress. She had hoped that a friend would be able to put her up, but that has not worked out. July is peak holiday season and Cornwall is a popular holiday destination meaning that accommodation costs are prohibitive. I am convinced that she thinks we are failing her as parents by being unwilling to pay for a hotel room. Once again I am left wondering how ordinary people ever get to medical school.

My elder son refused to eat dinner with us last night because I wrote a note to his music teacher instead of leaving him to talk the issue through himself. If he remembered to do the talking this would not be necessary. Such reasoning cuts no ice with a truculent teen who wants me to back out of his life. Sometimes that boy is the most sociable of all my children, the next minute he just wants me gone. I find his attitude exhausting and dread to think how he sees me.

Younger son is preparing for the first exams he has ever had to take that matter. He is my worrier but seems no more organised than the other two. With two exams today he informed me last night that he needed a maths kit. How can he have prepared without these tools? His older siblings were, thankfully, willing to lend him the required items, but he must have known what he would require more than twelve hours in advance.

Husband was the wise one and spent much of his evening hunkered down in his office while I dealt with each of the mini tornados that blew through the house. By the time all were at peace in their rooms revising I was too exhausted to pick up my book and didn’t wish to cause a disturbance by putting on a DVD.

The children were babies when we decided to do away with broadcast TV, a decision I have never regretted. Over the years we have watched films and favourite shows via DVD, together as a family treat. Now that they are older the kids watch their TV shows on their computers. My little notebook does not have a DVD drive so I use the big screen downstairs.

When the kids hear me turn on the sound system they take it as a signal that we are going to indulge in some family viewing time, which effectively stops me watching much during the week when they need to be concentrating on their studies. It is no bad thing to limit my TV habit, but there are times like last night when I could use a little mindless entertainment. I guess I will have benefited more from my early night.

Preparation for exams has been going on for some time already. They start today for my youngest and continue throughout May and into June for my elder two. I suspect that we will have a lot more days like yesterday before we are through. The pressure is intense for the individuals sitting the papers, but important exams affect the whole family as we come together to offer support and to ease all burdens other than the need to revise.

I am ignoring the messy bedrooms with their floor coverings of ring binders, revision guides and past papers. I try not to complain when shoes, coats and bags are left scattered on the floor as they come and go, heads full of whatever subject matter requires attention that day. I bring them cups of tea, tasty snacks and encouraging smiles in an effort to bolster their flagging spirits. I try to keep up with the never ending demands for new pens and pencils, which seem to evaporate at an alarming rate. I am convinced that I am supplying stationary for half the children in their classes.

For the next six weeks I must try to keep my own feelings under wraps and support my kids. If I dare to voice any complaint they are quick to point out how much harder their lot is, and rightly so. Nevertheless, I will be so glad when we get through and can once again relax and enjoy some free time. I won’t point out that, although the need to sit exams finishes when they leave formal education, if they ever have kids of their own the pressures of exam season will return.