Some Advice for Exam Parents

Exam season is upon us again.
 
It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?
 
If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.
 
1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
 
2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
 
3.Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) 
 
4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up.
 
5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
 
6. Positivity : Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it.
 
7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too.
Use different coloured pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
 
8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders.
 
9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin. With a few subjects being corrected digitally this year, anything written outside the allocated area won’t be scanned. Remind them of this.)
 
10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.
stumble
 
Life is a big long dance. We all stumble, sometimes we fall. We have parts of the routine that we’d rather skip, but it’s OUR dance. And each and every one of us has to dance our own steps.
 
I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t.
 
Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.
 
And the very best of luck to your minions.

You is My Baby

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You is three.
You is clever.
You is strong.
You is beautiful.
You is brave.
You is kind.
You is sensitive.
You is stubborn.
You is headstrong.
You is frightening.
You is craycray.
You is scary.
You is manipulative.
You is powerful.
You is exhausting.
You is expensive.
You is strong … strangely strong.
You is hilarious.
You is cute.
You is a monster…


But you is OUR monster.

You is Me and your Daddy combined and we have no one to blame but ourselves. 😂😂

We is exasperated and we is proud and we is always behind you and your glittery wee wellies.

Go Baby, go.
You’ve got a world to change.

 

She’s Hard Work She Is…

Cripes alive Sis, She’s hard work today.

I know. She’s not herself.

Maybe she’s hungry. When did we last feed her?

Mmmm. We’ll get her a snack?
Yeah.

She slept all night last night too. She shouldn’t be tired.
Ah I dunno.

Maybe she’s got a wee temperature. It’s not like her to this cranky.

A wee drop of the magical pink elixer of life might do no harm…

Maybe it’s us. Are we doing something wrong?

It’s not us.
It’s just her.

It’s just a phase she’s going through. It’ll pass…

Chripes she’s hard work today though isn’t she?
Yup…

Wouldn’t change her for the world though, would we?

Well…
😂😂😂
😂

Happy Mother’s Day

From a Mammy on Mother’s Day

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I love you each second of every day.

And even when sometimes I grumble and scold

I hope that you know that even if you’re being bold,

I trust you, I get you, I love you so much

I’ve loved you since the minute I first felt your touch,

(Whether at birth or first meeting, It matters not how

became your Mammy, I’m your Mammy now.)

My total existence revolves around you;

Your growth and your wellness, everything that you do.

I’m thinking about you, awake and asleep

And even if I’m not with you, please know that I keep

you so close in my heart and always on my mind.

You’re my reason for living, the reason I find

to get up on the mornings where there’s been no sleeping

to keep smiling and going, when I just feel like weeping.

But always, no matter how much I may struggle

The world can be fixed with just one little “cuggle”.

When I look at you sleeping, so pure and calm,

I love you with everything that I am.

I’ll push you, protect you and help you to grow,

I’ll make sure you know all the things you should know.

I’ll keep you as safe as I possibly can

I’ll make sure you know just how proud that I am

To be raising a child who’s so brilliant and clever

and to be your wee Mammy, forever and ever.

So how do I love you, let me count the ways.

Every day Darling, not just on Mother’s Day.”

To a Mammy on Mother’s Day

How to I love thee, well count I cannot,

But I don’t need my numbers to tell you a lot, 

I love you for reasons that do not need words,

For the fact that you’re mine since I came to this world.

Because you love me every day and each night,

When I’m being my best, or I’m giving you frights

I know that you sometimes are worried and scared

But you don’t let me see that, You’re too busy being there

When I need you for playtime or stories or songs,

When I call in the night, and you carry me long,

long into the hours where we should be asleep,

runjulia

When I hide from the monsters or cry or hurt deep.

When I eat all my dindins or throw it you

When I giggle and cry, when you’re covered in poo.

It really doesn’t matter what I do or I say,

You are my Mammy and I’ll simply love you always.

Much love to all the Mammies of any Babbies, all over the world.

The S-Mum xxxx

Thoroughly Modern Mammy -Does Ma Face look Bovad?

Have you ever felt like you’ve let your kids down or made a mess of things?

Have you ever felt like a failure because you didn’t reach your own expectations of how things should be?

Like when you’ve had the morning from Hell and then you spend the day feeling guilty that your kids will be upset all day?

Or a part of a birthday gift didn’t arrive on time and you worry that it’ll ruin the whole surprise?

Or you find something after Christmas which you meant to use or do and now you feel like you’ve messed up?

Or you forget to put something into the schoolbag and worry that your minion will get in trouble?

Or you spend the whole of the weekend cleaning and doing housework and are sure that you are ruining their lives because they’ve had to entertain themselves all weekend?

Or you don’t think to book a magician for her First Communion and then it’s too late?

Or you’ve had to work late and feel like you are not giving enough attention to your kids?

Or you’ve not been able to organise (or afford) the cake you wanted to get your 3 year old?

Or you’ve told your 8 year old they can invite 4 friends to their birthday party, but Jacinta has the whole class at little Vincentula’s?

I could go on and on…and on…and on… and on…

We set ourselves so many standards and expectations around our children’s experiences.  We feel like a failure if their experiences are not what we intended them to be…

I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.  It’s an incredible memoir.  Everyone really should read it.

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One of the memories she describes has stood strong in my head since I read it, is about her daughter’s tenth birthday.  She describes how it fell just weeks before the Presidential Election, when they were in the midst of the campaign trail, constantly surrounded by a management team and journalists and secret service.

She remembers that they had to make out that the 4th of July carnival they had to attend was for their daughter’s birthday…how they spent the day passing disappointed glances at each other, how they longed for the day to be over so that they could get an hour on their own with their daughter that evening.

The guilt that they both felt that day was immense.  And even when they did get to the hotel, their “private” party still had about 20 of their team present.  Michelle talks about the plain hotel function space, the “store bought” cake, the gifts that one of the team had had to go to buy as she was unable to go to a store alone… and she spoke of the desultory  disappointment she felt in herself.

She spoke about the shame she felt that her daughter’s birthday was spent working, dragging her along and not at home with her friends.  And she describes the guilt she and her husband felt in a way that every parent can understand.

I felt her pain as I read.  I’ve just returned from a 4 day work trip.  I had the worst dose of Mammy Guilt before I left and while I was there.  I felt that my girls were being passed from Granny to Daddy to Aunty to school and that I was the worst Mum in the world for not being close at hand for a few days.

But when I returned, I realised something.  My perspective to the trip was so incredibly different to theirs.

While I was teary eyed about leaving them on what happened to be my Birthday, they saw only that they were getting to play with their cousins.  While I worried that they’d miss me, they saw time alone with Daddy where Mammy wasn’t there to interfere!

Where I felt the guilt of sending them to my Mum’s house again, they saw the utter, imcomparable joy of getting a Sleepover in GannyGanda’s where they’d get pancakes for breakfast and 37 stories at bedtime.

Where I felt that I’d need to make it up to them when I finally got home, they only saw their Mammy, who was home safe with them.  The hugs were brief but tight, and after 5 minutes of showing me EVERYTHING they had made or done since I left, Mini-Me looked into my eyes and announced that they’d had a lovely time and asked when I had to go away again…

Just like Michelle Obama’s daughter bounced over to her parents on that birthday and hugged them tight announcing “This has been the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!”, My two girls saw things in a very different way.

Because that is what kids do.

And as parents we need to remember that.  Most of the things that we worry about, would NEVER be considered or noticed by our kids.

Kids don’t dwell on the bad morning.  They remember the kiss on the nose or the promise of “See you in a wee while!”

They don’t give a damn about the thing Mammy forgot to put out at Christmas, or that the spuds get burnt, or that there are no Pringles.  Kids are paying attention to a whole other set of things.

So ease up on yourself Mammy.

Are your kids loved?  Are they safe?  Are they fed?

Yeah?  Well chances are that even if YOU are feeling guilty or disappointed, or that you feel a failure about something, your kids don’t care.  They only see you.