March is a nervous month.

‘March is a nervous month, neither winter nor spring and the winds make people nervous.’ John Steinbeck, East of Eden Diary.

I woke up with a heavy sense of foreboding but I’m hoping that it can all be put down to the weather. Radio One forecasts ‘a very windy day’ with rising gales, strong gusts and spot floods. Looking out the window here, the day is dull but perfectly calm. Too quiet, perhaps, as though that sky is storing something up for later.

Japanese quince blossom.

My teenagers are in the middle of exams. Here in Ireland we have two state examinations, the Junior Cert., taken in the third year of secondary school, and the Leaving Cert., as the name would suggest, taken at the end of the final year of secondary school. I’m lucky enough to have one of each this year.

The Leaving Cert is a brutal experience where your grades are converted into points and the points determine which, if any, university course, you are offered. The Junior Cert is mostly seen as a dry run for the Leaving Cert but the younger teenagers (certainly my one) are liable to be far more emotional. Most schools operate in-house ‘mock’ or ‘pre-leaving/junior cert’ exams with the aim of shaking out all the nerves and anxiety.

Where do we think all that nervous energy gets dumped? Yup, right on top of the beleaguered parents who mistakenly believed they would never again have to face exam stress.

Teenage Son is playing it like an old hack who has been around the exam block a few times, refusing to be harried and making his parents feel as though they are pushing a Massey Ferguson up Everest. Teenage Daughter, the one who is doing the dry run for the dry run, is steaming around in a flurry of colourful study plans and ticked time sheets, her parents merely jogging behind (near catatonic from the Everest experience) waving packets of biscuits and hoping to appear helpful.

Dear Lord, what will I be like when the real thing comes around in June?

This is a truly rubbish blog post. I’ll go edit those pantry photos.

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16 thoughts on “March is a nervous month.

  1. Not rubbish at all …. you remind me of a cartoon that adorned John Cleese’s book on Family and how to survive it (I forget the title now) some years ago …. there was dad shouting at mum and mum scolding eldest child (they are all in a row from tallest down rather like the ‘I know my place’ sketch from That Was The Week That Was in which he starred too many moons ago with the Ronnie’s Barker and Corbett, eldest child shouts at next child and so on until the youngest is reached who kicks the cat. The angst has to go somewhere and here seems a pretty good repository for yours! Bon courage with those examinees … I remember it too well and particularly the night I sat (with the baby aged a couple of months and the eldest therefore the ripe old age of 8) working out who would be doing what exams in what years and when I would have a tandem …. it gave me premature nightmares but oddly, just like you, when it came along we got by somehow!

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  2. Not rubbish at all! I laughed out loud at the Massey Ferguson – so right. How our children manage to make us feel like we’re completely over-supportive pains in the arse and perhaps surplus to requirements all at the same time is beyond me. It’s the lot of parents (here it’s mostly me because I’m around more). We’ll have two next year doing Big Exams in tandem too; it’s going to be messy. Good luck to you and them (I’m sure it will be absolutely fine but I do feel your pain). Hang in there x

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    1. Thanks, Sam. That’s exactly it: they need us but don’t want us, or maybe it’s vice versa. This is the sort of practical family planning no-one ever mentions until it’s too late.

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  3. As Sam says, not rubbish at all, you have expressed it all beautifully, I can feel the cold hand of fear from here. I get a sick feeling every time I think of what lies ahead. And I have just worked out that as my children are two years apart I will have two years when two of them are doing big exams. And I guarantee that none of mine will be in a frenzy of activity and coloured study planners. I’m wishing them (and you) lots of luck. CJ xx

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  4. Lovely post my friend…I so enjoy your family wit….with my kids all grown up and gone, I miss the interactions of family life….something they didn’t teach us in school, the empty nest syndrome…LOL you make me think back to when my kids were having to take the SAT”s, I am guessing equivalent to the test yours are taking….my son could of cared less where he ended up, but my daughter was a nervous Nellie for weeks prior…I am right there with you…..xxxxkat

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