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.

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