Exam Survival – Illustrator
The Leaving Cert is looming! With the state exams due to start on June 8th, there are households across the country trying to cope with this stressful time. It’s hard on the students, revising or trying to cram in last-minute coursework. But tough on parents, too, who have brought them this far. As a mother of both a Leaving Cert and a Junior Cert student, I’m well aware of the tensions and traumas that accompany this ordeal. Like other frazzled mammies, I’m try to keep it together. The following survival hints might help ….
Keep the fridge full: Mindful of the old adage attributed to Napoleon and Frederick the Great, that “An army marches on its stomach,” experienced parents who have been through the exam warzone can’t over-emphasise the importance of having ample provisions in the house. “Keep them fed and watered,” advised a seasoned veteran, “Bring cups of tea or snacks to their room – anything to keep up the energy levels and help them to cope.” A thoroughbred racehorse or exotic plant mightn’t be pampered half as much, but no matter, make sandwiches or chocolate brownies if that’s what it takes to keep the troops happy.
Be positive and encouraging: There is no room for negativity or self-effacing deprecation. Talk them up. Tell everyone they’re doing great – it might inspire them to do some actual study. If “Yes, we (you) can!” works for Obama and Bob the Builder, it might do wonders for their confidence. Failing that, keep reminding the kids that it’s only an exam. “Do your best, there’s something for everyone. Be a builder, or even president! Construction is taking off and in these crazy times, even Donald Trump can be leader of the free world!”
Keep their rooms tidy, let them off chores: No matter if their bedrooms are a minefield of clothes, books or sports-gear dumped everywhere; if they saunter from the kitchen table leaving dirty plates without offering to clean or stack stuff in the dishwasher, say nothing. There are bigger fish to fry or, at least, six Leaving Cert subjects to swot up on.
Treat them gently for the next few weeks (Warn others in the house to do same): No matter how self-absorbed and annoying they might become during Operation State Examination, don’t get mad. We all know it’s a fractious time. Tip toe around them. Be patient. Bite your lip, you can let rip in another few weeks when the whole thing is over.
Be the uncomplaining, available taxi-driver: If they need to go for yet another maths grind, visit a friend, get ice-cream, just do it. Think of payback in the future when they’ll have their licence and must drive you to bingo, the pub or old folk’s home.
Light candles and say novenas: When all else fails, resort to prayer!
Ok, those are some suggested DO’s but what about the DON’Ts?
Don’t nag about doing study: If they want to watch a bit of telly, let them – just not all night. Watching YouTube clips on their laptop locked in their room, however, is another matter. Shut off the Wi-Fi or hide the damn thing when they’re at school, but that’s easier done when they’re 10 years old and haven’t morphed into opinionated teenagers towering over you, spouting their rights.
Don’t offer career guidance: For the love of God, don’t say things like “Wouldn’t teaching be a grand job” or “What about a degree in something solid like science, business or engineering?” (i.e., a course that has some hope of leading to paid employment), “Or be a plumber, tiler or electrician? With a newly appointed Minister for Housing, the construction industry is bound to take off and there’ll be LOADS of jobs!” (There’s that Bob the Builder influence again.)
…or mention the CAO or question course choices: We survived the trauma of filling out the CAO by February 1st where university courses are applied for in order of preference. There’s now a timeframe to change those options until July 1st. I’m trying to be a good, encouraging mother, saying, “Forget about points, what others are doing or (I’m really eating my words here) what you think we parents want you to do. Pick what you’re good at. You’ll be happy to work hard and the job opportunities will come in due course.”
Don’t pester about haircuts, clothing choices or personal hygiene: In fairness, this generally doesn’t apply to the girls, especially for Leaving Certs with a debs or grads on the horizon. With dresses to buy and dates to ask, grooming is all-important. But young teenage boys like Junior Certs can be a nightmare. Heavy-metal long hair is all very well but an occasional shampoo or shower isn’t too much to ask for, especially when odours pervade the home, classroom and exam hall.
Don’t compare: Above all, don’t listen to hearsay of supposedly perfect pupils, up all night, swotting diligently. They could be basket cases of nerves, completely stressed out. If your kids are calm, be grateful.
Parents – Chill out and stay sane. Don’t be frazzled or resort to Valium. Be calm, kind and love them to bits. Remember – they’re the ones doing the test, and at the end of the day, it’s just an exam. There are plenty of choices and courses on offer, and time on their side to figure it all out.
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2016