Exams - hell for all the family

May 25, 2016 12:16

A father revises the Weimar Republic and Treaty of Versailles with his daughter while a mother tests her son on free trade agreements and the economic policy of Europe while putting the washing on, ordering more stationery from Amazon Prime, roasting a chicken and running her business. Sounds familiar? Then you may be in exam hell too…

It seems that exams are the ultimate time for Jewish parents to display all their angst, worry, panic, pandering and general family dynamics.

"My entire family are involved,"
says one mum, who has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of retribution and general teenage rejection. "My dad covers history, my brother helps with science and my mum makes all the Friday-night dinners
and schnitzels. It's a group effort to get to the finishing line and, as a Jewish family, we all love to get involved."

Indeed, why suffer alone when the entire family can suffer together?

The Jewish response to suffering is widely documented but the Jewish response to exams - with plenty of support and interference in equal measure - is not.

One mother, Sharon, from Finchley, tells me: "I want to wear a badge saying 'I am in the middle of exams' so people feel sorry for me and know I am going through GCSEs". She means her daughter, of course, but adds "I want people to be kind to me at work since, at home, I have to wear a colander on my head for protection when entering my teenager's bedroom and say yes to everything she requests".

Another mother in the midst of exam nightmares, Andrea from Woodford, adds that when she asks her son to carry out a household chore, even one as minor as shutting the fridge door after opening it, his response is: "obviously you don't want me to pass my GCSEs."

Some parents have chosen to go that extra mile and actually collect their little darlings from the exam itself, driving them home to the sounds of grunts and snorts in response to every question asked - unless it's offering chocolate and Starbucks.

"I feel that I am going through my own exam hell all over again," says one mum adding, "my husband and I are screaming at each other because neither of us can understand Bidmas (brackets, indices, multiplication and subtraction) or remember all the characters from A View from the Bridge.

"I am a City lawyer but it's when I get home from work the real hard slog begins. I am literally exhausted!"

And it's not only week-nights that are being given over to revision. "Saturday nights are out as we are in exam lock-down but thankfully Tesco sells gin in a can with grapefruit that gives me one of my five a day," says Sarah from Woodside Park.

Naomi can relate to that. "Every year I take a deep breath and say to myself 'Here we go again.' I feel I know Plate Tectonics and Spanish verbs so well I could sit the exam myself.

"In fact, I have taken to drinking a strong cup of coffee on the morning of the exam to get myself ready for the paper which I am not actually sitting!"

So what advice should a worried parent heed? One mum who not only has teenagers, but teaches, too, says: "Only speak when spoken to, keep their bedroom door shut so you can't see the mess and be a 24-hour cook and 'on call' day and night for testing and running bubble baths. And, of course, run a taxi service to save precious revision minutes."

And what of the actual morning of the exams? Your task is to throw them healthy snacks which they'll accept only with cash and a portable phone charger. Once the door shuts and they are out, there is nothing the Jewish mother can do except say a little prayer to herself and hope for the best. "It's in their hands now," says Sharon, "my job is done."

After the exams, Ryman's and W H Smith are devoid of any stationery - it has all been purchased by the Jewish mothers. Flash cards, post-it notes, back-up calculator and compass, as well as tutors on speed dial, are all put away for another year and the shops are full of kids preparing for Israel tours.

But what of people like me? Well, we prepare to do it again and again, because, ultimately, we are the Jewish mothers.

May 25, 2016 12:16

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