Thursday 18 January 2018

The parent: 'I reckon the syllabus demanding the most reading after History is Leaving Cert Advice'

Frank Coughlan Photo: Ronan Lang/Feature File
Frank Coughlan Photo: Ronan Lang/Feature File

Frank Coughlan

The symptoms are well known and mirror those of every other known category of stress. Things like restless nights, iffy diet, lack of concentration, mood swings and door-slamming.

I'm referring, of course, to the agonies and ailments endured by the parents of the boys and girls who are a handful of weeks away from the exam that will define their lives.

If those students are looking for advice, solace and pampering (which, I admit, they deserve), I suggest they look elsewhere.

They won't have to search far. Huge Nordic forests are felled every year just to satisfy the demand for newspaper advice passed down by the sages of one generation to the exam cannon-fodder of the next.

At an educated guess, I reckon the syllabus demanding the most reading, after History, is Leaving Cert Advice. And you don't get any points for taking it in either.

But it's the parents who are the neglected ones. They're the ones who have been there, even if for most it is a distant memory and for some more (that would be me), an embarrassing one. Luckily, I was coming to maturity in a country that still respected the value and merits of nepotism. Things are a bit more challenging now and this meritocracy model seems to be all the rage.

On-edge Mum and Dad know how tough and challenging it is going to be out in the big, scary world. For instance, they might not get the Internet of Everything in the way their little darlings do, but they do know that this self-same phenomenon is greedily chewing up traditionally fail-safe careers, while offering precious little in return.

They're on edge much more than the parents of a decade or more ago, who just saw the possibilities and opportunities for Josh and Aoife. The world would be their oyster. We all know what happened next.

The Leaving Cert, its points scramble and the subsequent CAO Hunger Games have, of course, long been a circus. But there's an ever harder edge to it now.

So if I, as a doting father, suggested that the Art of Shrugability was a key asset to my daughter last year, I'd not hesitate to offer the same advice to parents this time out.

Hopefully, your prodigies have worked hard, or at least worked, over the past two years and that will stand them in good stead.

If they haven't, now is not the time to shout the odds. It's not when you should fall out with them, ratchet up the collective stress or start demanding what will not, indeed cannot, happen.

Much better to shrug it off. Some of it anyway. Deep breath and then an actual shrug, replete with a touch of Gallic insouciance.

That is not to say you don't care, or want to look like you don't care. You'll need to be that soft shoulder more than ever. It's just about letting the worst of the anxiety go, the stuff you are powerless to shape or change at this late stage.

This will help them too, of course. They are worried enough about letting themselves down without seeing you pacing the living-room, burrowing a path in the good carpet while hyperventilating over French verbs.

So give yourself a break. In any case, it would be a much better use of your anxiety quota to wind yourself up about what they're going to get up on the Sixth Year blow out in the Costa del Shag come July.

At least during the big exam you'll know where they are.

Irish Independent

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