Exam year hasn’t turned out so bad
THE end is in sight. Summer is coming and not since my school days, have I looked forward to a time so much.
My anticipation of this particular summer has nothing to do with longer days, barbecued food or being able to wear white trousers again. It has nothing to do with fine weather, flip flops or coffee al fresco. No my eagerness for summer to arrive is down to one thing only - come summer we will be done with exams; namely the Leaving and Junior Certificate.
I say “we” here because despite it being my two sons owning the dubious pleasure of sitting the actual things, I feel like the entire family might as well be doing them too.
I knew for a long time that this year was coming - the year of the double exam whammy. And for a long time it was a year I was dreading. I expected arguments, melt-downs, spats and squabbles and I predicted procrastination, haranguing, reprimand and rebuke. But I was mistaken.
It hasn't turned out like that at all. Sure there is a little bit of each of the above, but if I was to take one word to describe the past year, then that word would be “routine” - not since my kids were babies has routine been so great a dictate. Yes, it is tedious and boring but it is nonetheless necessary. At a time in their lives when everything is unsure, it seems what is certain becomes all the more important.
And in no way to compete with the challenges facing my offspring, parenting through exam-time can be quite the challenge itself. I have long since encouraged my kids not to judge others, not to compare themselves with others and to find validation in who they are as opposed to what they are. Then come the State exams and all of that is negated. Suddenly in the home stretch of their education, it seems life has become all about judgement, evaluation and comparison. And it is daunting.
It came to a head recently when one of my sons asked how I would feel if he wasn't successful in his exams. How to answer? I answered by telling him that he was a suc- cess already, as a person, a son, a brother and a friend.
But results were his focus and my reaction to them, his question. So how do I remain faithful to all I have taught him and marry it to the reality before him? Before all of us? So I conceded that entering adulthood with good exam results is like going to battle with a sword and shield - the armour can make things easier.
But I included an addendum; battles can still be won bare-fisted, even if the sword and shield are lost because with conviction, selfbelief and a clever Plan B, there need be no cause for retreat but every last reason to advance.
None of this is easy but at least summer is coming.