Simone Delochan firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember when I wrote that exam. It was Common Entrance in my day. I remember the sick feeling to the pit of my stomach. I remember the panic when the first paper was placed in front of me and the initial void that was my brain as I looked at the questions. I couldn’t think. All three siblings before me had attended a prestige school and fear of failure loomed big over the little eleven-year-old body. I couldn’t disappoint. Thirty years and a lifetime of study after, the memory remains clear.
As we approach yet another SEA exam, the headlines have been sounding out the enormous pressure our children are under, with calls to parents to ‘ease up’. As a parent, I understand wanting your child to succeed academically. Every parent wants this for their child.
We who are older and seemed to have lived through a multitude of lives and choices, both good and bad, can look back and realise the journey that has led us to the point we are now. And that is what children have to be reminded of: SEA is not life or death; it does not mark the end of their lives nor is their inherent value determined by the school for which they pass.
Perhaps as parents we should look at how we tend to pin our own ambitions—and the quality of our parenthood—on our child’s academic performance. Their successes are not badges to adorn our parenthood. When so approached, we begin to lose sight of the humanity of our children and begin to scar them in ways that can be difficult to overcome. Are we teaching them that we love them most when they succeed and make us proud? We need to pay close attention to the epidemic of mental health issues that is marking teens currently in Trinidad and Tobago. Young people are cutting and icing [rubbing an ice cube on skin to experience numbing], indulging in acts of self-mutilation to temporarily feel better. Depression is rampant.
What they need to be taught instead is that their parents’ love and support are unstinting, and mistakes and failure are par for the course of life, as are discipline and hard-work. I remember a story told to me, by a priest, on how his father had treated with him and an exam: “You will get the bike whether you pass or you fail. Just do your best.”
Kahlil Gibran in his most beautiful poem on children and parenthood says:
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
Be the stable bow for your child. Give him or her a tight hug tomorrow with the simple words “Do your best. I love you” and make a quiet promise to yourself to guide your child into seeing opportunity and solutions in every mistake or ‘failure’ onwards.