I hate exams. I hate the kind of mother I become when exams loom. I do not want to be an overly-ambitious mother who pressurises and pushes her child. I want to be supportive and accepting. Hah! It appears that I am only capable of being supportive when the need for help is towards studying; and I struggle to be accepting when they want to play rather than revise.
I want my children to do well. To do their best. And most of the time I am able to allow them to decide in what way they might achieve this. And best can mean a myriad of different things – whole-person things, like happy and fulfilled, self-motivated, balanced and at peace as well as academically successful and highly functioning. But bring on the exams and I become possessed by the demon of high-achievement. I seem to lose my trust in the children’s ability to work towards their own goals and seem compelled to drive them on.
Of course there is no better way to turn someone off their work than to put pressure on them to do their work. Despite being a intelligent woman I do not seem to be able to grasp this. I wake up resolved not to mention revision, or indeed roll my eyes when child is found gaming, but I have yet to make it through a pre-exam day having honoured my promise. I want them to want to work, for their own sake. I want them to realise that if they are going to achieve that top mark that they have set their sights on, then they are going to have to put some effort in. I do not want to nag and remind and cajole them to their books ‘for their own good.’ But I am afraid of letting them fail.
But how can they do their best when they sit around playing rather than revising? It is torture! Anyone would think they were children, for goodness sake. Do they not realise that their own future is at stake?
Why do I buy into this? Am I so thoroughly programmed into the CV-assessment of life that I lose my ability to recognise that our future success and happiness no more rests on our exam success than it does on our ability to file our own self-assessment tax return or wrestle a double-duvet into its cover. I know that over-prioritising exams can lead to a narrowing down of focus. Tunnel vision on exam results narrows choices. And being CV-orientated leads to a loss of knowing what really makes the heart sing. I do not want my children to think they can be defined by a grade given on their performance whilst sat a desk for an hour under stressful conditions. I do not want my children to devote too many of their childhood hours to study that is not entirely motivated by the pure love of learning. It is unlikely that a person’s natural course of curious enquiry would take them down the exact path of an exam curriculum and yet, the moment they sign up to be examined on a subject, that is what they are tethered to.
I wish I could cut myself free from the compulsion to try and ensure that my children perform well at exams, no matter how out of balance this may make the rest of life. I really do not want to train my children to excel at all costs. This is not encouraging real success.
So I try to remind myself of the many stories of folks who succeed in life but failed at school. And I repeat to myself, over and over, “Trust, trust, trust my child to navigate their own route into their future.”