Not the children’s stress, of course. Mine.
All day Facebook was bulging with proud parents telling everyone exactly how well their offspring had done. Which is great. Marvellous, in fact. I’m delighted for them.
And, then it was time for the photo of shiny-haired teenagers jumping for joy. You know the one. Well you should, it happens every year, regular as whingeing about crappy Scottish summers and the premature arrival of festive treats in the shops. Back in the day you’d see it on the next day’s front pages. Now, though, they land about lunch time in the online versions*.
So yes, youngsters passing exams is great news. But… this time, it’s personal.
Boy One was among the thousands who’d spent most of May creating the illusion of studying. “Just do your best, son. It’ll be fine.”
Enquiries about how his exams went were met with a shrug. “Dunno. OK. Maybe.” So we’d have to wait. And wait.
And today – as all waiting becomes worse the nearer it’s end – was tense. Not least because Boy One is visiting his dad several hundreds of miles from the crisp white envelope on our doormat. The creeping time was filled with people smugdating their timelines and instabragging.
Eventually, he FaceTimed and I got to read him the results. (Very good, since you ask.) I was wrung out. He shrugged and smiled a bit: “Cool.”
I felt wrung out.
I had, it seems, forgotten the vital stuff. Such as the knowledge that in the beat of a midgie’s wing no one will give a hot damn about how many As, Bs and Cs are written on the creamy certificate that arrived in the summer of your 16th year. And they’ll care even less about the stuff you sat there not playing Minecraft or googling Selena Gomez in order to study.
I’d also forgotten that parenting is not a competitive sport, nor a beauty contest. A parent’s job is to keep their child alive and teach it enough so that it can live independently in moderate contentment. Anything else is a bonus. Nowhere in any parenting book – even the ones worth bothering with – does it suggest that it matters how well your child does in relation to the children of your peers. Au contraire, that way lies madness and eggy faces.
Manage exam day stress by keeping in mind that exams don’t really matter very much, and certainly not as much as letting your offspring know that you love them, whatever the certificates in the envelopes reveal.
*Quite literally, jumping for joy. Obviously it’s important to tell the story in the photo and to have lively pictures with interesting content. But how can it be that year after year without fail, a snapper scratches his head and says: “I know, let’s get them leaping in the air, it’ll make a great picture.”? I’ll have to give photographers the benefit of the doubt and assume they have some form of memory impairment preventing them from remembering what they did last year, and the year before that and every year since exams and results and children began.