Exam time doesn’t get any easier for parents

By Grainne McCool

Exam time with our teenagers is never one we can prepare for. We spend so much time during that final year in secondary school shouting, preaching and yelling (well I do!).

As parents we are fully aware of the importance of the dreaded Leaving Cert but the kids just don’t seem to ‘get it’.

They do get the importance of the ‘formal’ or ‘debs’ but somehow those exams get overlooked in the process.

I’ve been here twice before and it definitely gets no easier. To say it gets harder may be a bit extreme but somehow it just feels that way.

When my eldest son reached this stage, I was so confused with his being so intelligent and yet having no desire to study. Frustration was paramount for me throughout his final year.

He just sailed through and without a care in the world. I spent many days, weeks, and even months worrying and fretting about the forthcoming exams that June.

It was I who was pulling the hair out, had sleepless nights and drank copious amounts of coffee. The boy just carried on regardless.

Fortunately he did surpass mother’s expectations and went on to further study and is now in a very established career.

Grainne's three sons
Grainne’s third child is doing his Leaving Cert this year but it doesn’t get any easier for the parents

Son number two approached the Leaving Cert with a very mature attitude. He knew he wanted to go to college but also knew that school came relatively easy to himself.

I noticed that little study was being done and so the yelling and preaching prevailed. On deaf ears it fell.

But thankfully he also surpassed my expectations, went to college and is now in his final year of study. The past four years has seen him party his wee heart out but somehow he is still passing those much needed exams.

As the baby approaches the Leaving Cert I am stressing and walking on those ever so familiar eggshells once more. I’m forever being told not to worry and ‘I’ll be fine Mum’ but it is now falling on my deaf ears.

What if he doesn’t get the necessary points? What if he doesn’t get into college? What if he hasn’t done enough study? What then?

I’ve contemplated throwing out the Playstation. I’ve contemplated switching off the WiFi. I’ve contemplated running away (just on occasion!)

As I sat down earlier this week with that same baby (yes the one who is now 18), I realised that maybe it’s time I took a back seat.

Maybe it’s time I started putting my faith in the child. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying excessively about that dreaded Leaving Cert.

Monday morning of the oncoming week sees the onset of the Mock exams. The next two weeks will see me making the baby a daily breakfast and being extra nice (not that I’m not always nice in the morning!).

It will see me ensuring he has NO household chores for 14 days. And it will see me trying to act cool (as if Mum can do such).

So as my baby approaches his trial run, I need to do a reality check and convince myself that this really isn’t the end of the world. This is just a set of exams that our society pressurises our children into doing. These don’t separate the smart kids from the not so smart. These exams don’t showcase that my child is better or worse than yours.

But these exams do allow my boy to have choices in life. They will allow him to decide on a future that will suit him.

Should he fail, they won’t make him inferior to his peers. They won’t make him a social outcast. Failing will only show him that there is always a back-door. That back-door is sometimes more inviting than the front.

Whichever door our children enter after school will be the one that is right for them. Like all other parents at this stage in life I would like him to be able to go through the front door, but thanks to my own life experience I know that the back-door is always open.

Whichever door this boys goes through I don’t doubt that it will be inviting for him in all the right ways.

So now I must assure myself that the child will embark on his life from herein with good morals and good manners. Good exams are not the be all and end all. It’s me who needs convincing and not him.

As Lionel in ‘The Kings Speech’ (English text for Leaving Cert) says, ‘Poor and content is rich and rich enough’. If my boy is happy with what he gets and what he has, who am I to argue.

Here’s wishing each and every student the very best of luck over the coming week with the Mock exams and to realise that there’s much more to life than exams.

Now it’s time for me to take my own advice!


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