There is some irony in the fact that Friday 13th was the start of study leave. Just as when I did my O and A' levels, study leave provides crucial respite during exams, entitling students to an approved absence from school and requiring them only to go in to "sit" their exams. The downside, however, is the threat to the sanity of those around them.
With an intense schedule of AS exams for the next two weeks, Teenager No.1 is actually "off" until 16th June. Already, my time is no longer my own and I miss that. The average exam is 90 minutes and allowing for travelling there and back, my time to get on with what I want, when I want has been reduced by 75%. Despite having been here last year with the GCSE's I had forgotten just what an impact it has.
I have followed my own advice from my previous post on Exam and Revision Tips - How We Can Help Our Teenagers and encouraged a good routine, stocked the fridge and been there to discuss not only the revision but also the post-exam analysis, but already I am desperate for some peace as Teenager No.1 stalks me around the house. I can be revelling in some "me time" reading the paper and listening to R4 and he will come in, sit down and start randomly discussing coastal erosion or the impact of migration on the economy. Even the bathroom, the guaranteed seclusion zone isn't safe anymore, as he tracks me down and sits outside, oblivious to my assurances that "I will be there soon" and pleas to "leave me alone".
My son's work ethic is commendable. He is conscientious and completely focused on doing well for himself. I love him to bits. He is my first-born, my only son and maybe because of our time together after my divorce from his father, we are close. There is no doubt, however, that at exam time his needs are overwhelming. I knew this and of course it is completely understandable but the shock to my system is no less. As well as my physical support, he needs mentoring and it is exhausting. My wings have been clipped and my sanity and patience is being pushed to its limit.
Relaxation time when revising is essential and TV provides a welcome distraction during his breaks. Invariably it will involve watching either sport, an action movie with a bit too much gratuitous violence or dare I admit it Geordie Shore! Now I am not here to question my son's viewing habits at nearly 18, but when it is in my space I have a view.
We have a small TV/games room upstairs for the teenagers and their mates which leaves us free to enjoy the downstairs rooms without arguments about what they watch and when. However, this is all forgotten during study leave as he has migrated down to where I am, the result being that my kitchen/living area is regularly consumed by a cacophony of different sounds that I wouldn't ordinarily choose to listen to and at what I would refer to as, "inappropriate times of day". The gentle banter of the cricket commentary I can handle, but what post 40 year old wants to listen to the drunken antics of a bunch of young reality stars at 8.30am on a Monday morning? Add to this the fact that he has also decided that he needs to vary where he studies and consequently has taken over the kitchen table for his revision during the day and there is no respite.
He also likes to burn off some stress by going for a run around the block, a strategy I wholly support. However, when this is translated in to a need for 5 showers a day leaving no hot water for the rest of the family my patience begins to fray. Plus, the showers are normally accompanied by loud music. Sometimes I feel as if I have been transported to an abandoned warehouse as club music literally shakes the foundations and sends the snails in the garden running for cover.
Then there is the constant request to accompany him on a walk! He likes to walk and talk. Normally this is an activity I relish with my teenagers, as it brings us together and gives me unfettered access to what is really happening in their lives as we chat and laugh about all manner of things. Now, however, it is an opportunity for another therapy session and it is irrelevant whether I might have something else I need to do or if the time is not convenient. It has to be at his behest. "Of course darling, if you want to" I respond. On the rare occasions he does go alone, I cannot settle to anything as I subconsciously start counting the minutes until his return.
As if all this is not enough yesterday presented another challenge in the shape of the answers of the AS Maths paper he had taken only two hours previously being published online. It is challenging enough trying to offer your child supportive assurances that however tough an exam may have seemed, no-one really knows until the results, without having to compete with some faceless entity on social media dashing his hopes.
There are of course some upsides to spending time together and I am sure I will look back fondly on these times in years to come, after all it causes huge merriment in the house around the supper table as my husband and Teenager No.2 ask me "So how is he and how was your day?" Until these exams are over his wish is my command as I maintain a calm and stress-free zone for him but only 5 days in and I wonder how I will survive the course and more importantly if my will sanity hold out? Are you in a similar scenario? If so please let me know how you are coping.