The Brat will sit for his final examinations next week. I will, in all probability, keel over and die from a stress-induced heart attack by then, given that his idea of studying for his exams comprises 45 minutes of whining about how studying is "very boring," and then cursorily flicking through his text books for a grand total of 10 minutes, which he deems is sufficient for him to have completely grasped, understood and retained all the knowledge contained within. Never mind that in these times of the dark ages, marks are being mercilessly chopped if definitions are not reproduced verbatim, and answers that display any hint of original thinking are cruelly cross-marked and egg-appended.
"I finished," he states with Buddha-like calm, while I sit on my hands, and bite my tongue, and try hard to be composed and not shriek till the plaster falls off from the ceiling.
"A little more," I plead, hating what parenting has reduced me to, given that my own mater probably didn't even know what my syllabus comprised of, but merely scrutinised the report card when it arrived post examinations, and raised an eyebrow questioningly if one fell below the top 5 ranking in class.
"10 minutes more," I wheedle. "Pretty pretty please. Serious reading of the chapter. Don't just turn the pages."
The boy casts a gaze on me that a Basilisk would be proud to own. "Only 10 minutes."
I retreat gratefully to his peripheral vision, lurking in the background to check if any serious reading, as requested, is being done, or whether, as done previously, he's turning pages for the sound effects.
"Read the highlighted bits out loud," I prod helpfully, having gone earlier through the entire text with a highlighter, wearing out 2 of them in the process. He says, without missing a beat, "I already read in my mind. Am not reading loudly. It's noise pollution." I console myself; at least he has grasped the concept of 'noise' (chapter on sound and kinds of sounds), and pollution (chapter on pollution and kinds of pollution)!
I realise sadly, I'll have to teach the child how to study, right from the very basics-things one took as being implicit in one's childhood (though one can't remember either parent ever sitting with self to help with the studying)-from "How to mark out what is important in the text book, and read it over and over again, until you can rattle it off in your sleep and scare the bejesus out of unwary folks who sleep next to you," to "How to create little mnemonics for complicated terms so you can recall them with a smug smile on your face that makes supervisor suspect you have answer chits tucked into your sleeve."
The boy has no concept of examinations. He does not get the tooth-gnashing-chest-palpitating-stomach-churning-gut-twisting-bile-raising terror we grew up with when examinations drew near. I am now living those days vicariously all over again through his exams. I have already had a stomach ache twice and suspect I might be in for a fever. This comes from all his pre-primary years of having no tests to fear, something I exulted in during all those years, but which has risen firmly like the proverbial hooded cobra and bitten me plum in my rather substantial derriere.
While part of me is thrilled that he does not have exam stress, the other, more rational part of me knows that all the stress is single-handedly being borne by me, on my rather fragile shoulders, while each individual strand of hair on my head pings me as it decides to give up the melanin.
I realised how the boy's exams were affecting me when I visited the mater over the weekend and the first thing she did was to hand me a cutting from a newspaper she had carefully preserved that informed parents on how to not let exam stress affect them. Given that by this time, I had all the classic symptoms of stress-including tremors in my hand, thick-coated tongue, a tendency to slur my words, and a penchant for suddenly rattling off the names of the moderates, the radicals and the revolutionaries even when not asked-I realised that there was a major problem. And the problem was me.
After all the years of indolent elephant parenting, I was suddenly ramping up my act, trying to morph into a tiger mom in the last couple of months of this academic year. Naturally, the child was having none of it, and doing exactly what he had been doing all these years when it came to studying, namely, nothing. I had rid myself of the laissez faire act and crossed over to the other extreme. The child, naturally, was confused and had dug his heels in. I was digging my heels in. This was resulting in an uncomfortable tug of war.
So now, I've decided at the nth moment to slacken the pressure a bit. There's time ahead for that, and until the urge to study comes from within him, there is only so much I can do. I've done all the mandatory stuff they tell us parents to do-made him a study schedule and tacked it to his soft board (which he never sticks to because he is "bored" or "sleepy"); ensured he gets enough rest and adequate healthy nutrition; jazzed up his lessons with encyclopedias, news clippings on relevant topics, and educational videos. What I need to do though, is to stop biting my nails down to the knuckles, and hovering around him in helicopter mode.
But then, 'tis never too late. And hopefully, lessons learnt this year shall stand me in good stead for the next. So, with all good intentions, I'm making out my list for next year. This includes taking myself off to meditation workshops in order to learn how to be Zen-like and calm before exam fever strikes. Plan B is to keep the fermented grape juice that cheers one, close at hand in case one needs to drown self in it. Plan C is, of course, to get him to study a bit every single day. I'm thinking Plan C, though tough, might just work.