I give up. I do not fit the popular definition of an ideal parent. I admit. It is that time of the year when most parents lose sleep. Exams are here. Televisions have been shut, remotes hidden. I tried. I honestly tried to get them to study as if their life depended on it. But I couldn’t prevent them from reading their choice of fiction during exams, or making their share of origami and scoubidou string rings. Thing is, I have not forgotten my time. I never took exam seriously. And I seem to be doing fine. So how do I pretend? I cannot. Hence, I give up.
Also, I apologised to the elder one today. I had been telling him that he wasn’t studying the way he was ‘supposed to’. Then in a rare introspective moment, realisation hit me- I was no one to judge his system. For all you know, it might work. Just because the convention demands that he study continuously does not mean that his system of getting up from the desk every 20 minutes, doesn’t work. He is still at the stage of working out his method. Hence apology was in order.
Exams are made to be a bigger monster than they are. And I am in the process of learning that. I tried to be The Mom – the one who worries, takes furious notes, writes out assignments for the kids, and panics every time the word test is mentioned. I failed. How long can you pretend after all? I was never an organised child and frankly, the lessons that mum tried to impart turned me against the whole idea of being a studious kid anyway. She tried. She tried to be The Mom. She somewhat failed too. So I leave them to their own devices. They study – sometimes at last minute, and sometimes in a way more disciplined manner than I could have ever dared.
When I get after their lives, am I ensuring success, or am I preventing them from learning from failure? Does my bugging them motivate them to do better? I think not. There are other ways to motivate. So I made my decision today. I am going to let them shoulder their burden. If it is success – it is theirs and if it is failure -it is their own toast to raise. That is how they will learn. A huge part of exams, I believe, is not categorising us in neat packets labelled by the marks we get; it is to gauge our strengths and weaknesses. It is to pave a way forward – not to get flogged for getting half a mark less than the highest, or for that matter flunking.
So I give up. For I want them to fail. Failure is the only way they would learn to cope. Life doesn’t ensure success. Hence they need to learn. When they prepare for the mid-terms on their own, and give it the importance that they feel is due, they earn what they deserve, and hence get presented with an opportunity to learn. That is where I choose to step in. I choose to sit and analyse the pitfalls with them rather than making sure that they learn the answers word for word.
I give up on obsessing about that one word answer that they seem to have missed. We never talk about how the fifth part of the third question went. I’ll know how they did in due time when the results get declared. There is no point in dissecting the question paper the moment they step inside the house after an exam. I never did that as a student. So if I did now, it would be hypocritical. We heave a sigh of relief when the exam is done and leave the rest to the results. When the results come, we gauge them against the last time’s performance and see what can be done in future. And then we discuss the book that we want to read or the flavour of ice cream we want to try.
I am still confused about the efficacy of our system but deep down it feels right. I can be the pillar they lean on, but I cannot be the staircase they use to climb up, for I am dated. When they run out of staircase, then what? I cannot let them fall into blind dark abyss of failures after that. They have to make their own paths, hitch up their own ropeways. So when they fall below their own expectation, or for that matter fail, I smile – not because I am the proverbial wicked witch mother, but because I see an opportunity for them to learn.
Tomorrow they are facing their last exam for now. The older one says he is done with the entire syllabus except one chapter. I have no idea about the number of chapters he was supposed to mug anyway. And the younger one says he is halfway through and is cool about it. He says he’ll manage. That is not possible – I know it. If, however, he manages – good for him. If doesn’t, we will hopefully learn for future.
So while my peers live through a curfew, ours is a fairly regular household – music still blares sometimes, I still steal cups of solitary coffee, I do not listen to them rattle off answers, and I try not to freak out over the last minute preparations. I have fought my set of battles. This battlefield is theirs to tackle. I choose to be an observer, a motivator, enforcer of basic discipline, and an anchor. They know I am here for support, and they also know I am not their navigation system. They know I will arm them, but I will not fight their battles. If they fall in a ditch, I shall pull them out, and try to set them on course again. I might warn them about ditches, but I will try not to lay planks over it for them to cross. They have to figure that bit out. And when they balance, and make it across, of course I’ll secretly let out a sigh of relief. I am a mother after all.
Originally posted at : Mycity4kids.com