Parent’s Diary: Leaving Cert students often lose their sense of humour in the first week of June

Parents haven’t a clue, so avoid too much helpful advice

Leaving Cert blues: “The things my daughter prefers to exams include her mobile phone, friends and not doing exams.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Leaving Cert blues: “The things my daughter prefers to exams include her mobile phone, friends and not doing exams.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

How do you convince someone that the most important exam of their life isn’t actually the most important exam of their life the day before the most important exam of their life?

With less than 24 hours to go before my stressed-out daughter’s first Leaving Cert exam, I would like to tell her it’s no big deal, that there are more important things in life, and that slipping a few hundred euro into each paper is not technically bribery.

 

‘I told you so’

But here’s some advice for parents of Leaving Cert students: they often lose their sense of humour in the first week of June.

If you’re looking to lighten the mood of stress, pressure and “my whole life is over” that pervades the average Leaving Cert household at this time of year, cracking jokes is probably not the way to go.

However, that doesn’t stop some parents.

I know of one father – and I won’t name me . . . I mean “him” – who tried to make his daughter laugh by saying that life on the dole wasn’t as bad as some people may make out. “Think of all the free time,” I say.

She doesn’t reply but her cold, hard stare lets me know that I am right: she has indeed suffered a severe sense of humour loss.

As we’re on the subject, another useful thing to avoid is the old “I told you so” line.

“There’s no point pulling your hair out now. I warned you when you were four months old that the Leaving Cert was a mere 17 years away and that if you didn’t start studying now, you would regret it on June 3rd, 2015. But, oh no, you wouldn’t listen. You knew better. Now look at you: a bag of nerves, totally stressed and crying the whole time. Pathetic!”

If taking this approach, it’s good to stand well back and to remove all throwable objects from your child’s reach, but particularly her history book. (I speak from experience here. Who knew the past could hurt so much?)

My daughter is a bit like your son or daughter: she is bright, intelligent and doesn’t like exams very much.

The things she prefers to exams include her mobile phone, friends and not doing exams. So the current system probably doesn’t suit her very much, just like it doesn’t suit the majority of teenagers who will be staring into the abyss this evening.

Hard work

 

That said, she has worked hard at different times. The stints of hard work generally follow the stints of worrying, hair-pulling and throwing things at her annoying father.

I’m fairly sure the Leaving Cert was pretty important “in my day”, but it does seem to have taken on extra importance in the intervening centuries.

This has led to an interesting – and perhaps rarely spotted – divergence: parents haven’t a clue. This means doling out helpful advice such as “cramming’s okay, but not while listening to Macklemore and messing with your phone” isn’t met with quite the reaction you might have hoped for. Unless, of course, you were hoping for heavy sighs and slammed doors.

So I am trying to be as encouraging as possible to my daughter by not getting in the way, by not saying stupid things and by reminding her that the Leaving Cert is important but not the most important thing in the whole world.

I also tell her to be confident, do her best, read the paper carefully, answer all the questions and stop worrying about how her hair looks but by then I’m usually talking to a slammed door or removing a history book from the side of my head.

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