If it’s June it must be exam time. Who’d be a teenager . . . or a parent, come to that?
This month, I have a daughter doing A-levels, finishing on June 20 (yay!), followed by, one presumes, a summer spent rabidly distracting her with ‘fun’ things. It seems cruel making them wait for results. But then, the whole system seems cruel.
I like education, but that is because I’m middle aged. Middle aged people love learning things, doing workshops, degrees, reading popular science books, watching narcissistic ex-teachers present science programmes on BBC4. We are the perfect students, and completely forget that, back in the day, all we cared about was Top of the Pops and backcombing.
“I hate physics,” my son says to me. “How can you hate physics? It’s about the universe, the nature of everything,” I say, trying to gesticulate excitedly like that science lady on TV.
“It’s really boring.” “How can it be boring? It’s black holes, and time being bendy, and worm holes, and sci-fi stuff.”
“It’s just about things moving. And things being hot. And my teacher sounds like Marvin The Paranoid Android from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.” (For those who haven’t read Hitchhikers, Marvin is a robot with a ‘brain the size of a planet’ and clinical depression. The two are not unrelated). I forget that year 9 science is not taught by a Carlo Rovelli, Stephen Hawkins or indeed a Douglas Adams, but an ordinary man having a personal crisis because he’s been forced to cut out all the interesting parts of physics, which presumably he once loved, as much as I once loved Echo and the Bunnymen.
Imagine having to talk to a class of 13-year-olds about the composition of early 1980s hair gel, a key component to the Echo and the Bunnyman oeuvre, but not as engaging or important as the album Porcupine, or Ian McCulloch’s extra-curricular activities? Why do they do that in school? Why don’t they teach the mind-blowing stuff first, then add the boring stuff as you grow older and grow to like facts, the way you grow to like wine, and olives and comfy trousers?
Children, especially adolescents, are vastly imaginative and creative and funny with acute bull detectors. I wonder who decided to stymie that, to make them bored, conformist, anxious and insecure? Was it the Victorians, perchance? All I can say is, “It gets better.” June, a month of sunshine and gaiety – and my eldest is imprisoned in her darkened room, doing a Carrie in Homeland wallchart and scowling at the sun. You are only as happy as your unhappiest child, they say. June is toast for me, then.
What can we parents do to make exam month easier for ourselves? Bearing in mind for the kids it’s a write-off. At the very least, they’re learning about tunnels and lights at the end of them, an important life lesson.
Avoid going home. Do lots of fun things with your friends, go on holiday, check into an ashram in Goa, go find yourself, or someone else. There’s nothing worse than a stressed teenager, so avoid seeing them for a month and go party.
Never ask them how their day went. You will be sucked into a minefield where all your insightful positive psychology will be shot to pieces, leaving you a husk pondering the point of your existence. Don’t be upbeat in their vicinity. Channel your own inner teenager and out-teen them. Dye your hair pink, binge watch Supernatural and only eat pizza and Super Noodles. Just don’t do Vodka shots. They make you very ill and behave inappropriately, and at your age, that is never a good look.
Buy them huge expensive gifts. This is all your fault. If you had started a revolution and overturned the system instead of buying houses and getting into debt, they would be doing national service, like working on recycling plants or volunteering at old people’s homes, instead of taking exams so they can get into debt, too. Buy yourself huge expensive gifts. Spend all their university savings and tell them they’ll have to apply for a loan like everyone else.
Or – just be nice and respectful, and keep a polite distance. Meditate, make tea, take up basket weaving. It’ll be over soon. Then you can spend the summer not thinking about the results . . . firstname.lastname@example.org
Channel your own inner teenager and out-teen them. Dye your hair pink, binge watch Supernatural
A-LEVELS... HOW AM I GOING TO COPE?