I am State Examinations Mum

exam2

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.) exam4
  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. exam
  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. exam1
  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 colour 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. exam3
  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!)
  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.

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.

I am So in the Doghouse Mum

Mammy is in the dog house.

This morning, Princess hung off my neck, suspicious of the proper clothes Mammy was wearing. She took one look at my outfit and muckuped face and refused point blank to be removed from my trunk. The Him eventually pried the little fart off me. Think starfish stuck to the side of a fish tank… every time he peeled one limb from my neck, the other one suctioned itself back on. It took physical force and bribery with banana and Peppa Pig to get her off me long enough for me to find a shoe which was NOT a trainer, to match my not-a-tracksuit outfit. 😂

I dropped her to playschool, quite a bit more calm and relaxed than I had envisioned if I’m honest. And then I toddled off to my other job. I rather enjoyed the uninterrupted conversation and absence of Mr Feckin Tumble for a few hours and then drove happily home, excited to see my little cherubs.

Mammy was certain that after this morning’s displays of affection, that my Darlings would be DELIGHTED to welcome me home. They would run into my arms, unanimously squealing “Welcome home Mammy Darling!” and “Oh how we MISSED you.”

“Oh what a twat you are Mammy” more like… 😅

Mini-Me DID declare her general satisfaction that I had arrived home, until she remembered that my return meant HER REMOVAL from Granny Dearest’s, so she decided to put on her Wench-from-hell persona until bedtime. Princess? She IGNORED me. She IGNORED and SHUNNED me, to the point that EVERYONE in Granny Dearest’s got hugs and full-on mouth slabber kisses… everyone EXCEPT MAMMY. Mammy got run past, hissed at and glared at. Oh and did I mention, IGNORED?

This 👆👆👆 is what I saw everytime I spoke to her this evening. She only forgot she was ignoring me at bedtime when she realised that the only thing between her and her milk, was Mammy. She begrudgingly climbed up on my knee and drank her milk.

Then JUST to ensure that I didn’t mistake her sitting on my knee as weakness or forgiveness, she looked up at me and proceeded to tip the end of the glass of milk onto the floor, watching me the whole time with one little half-grown eyebrow raised. “Go ahead and scold me then woman.

Just you TRY it” taunted the other eyebrow. 😈

Wagon.😂

So there. I spent quite a portion of today fighting the Mammy Guilt of having abandoned my poor helpless children… And the other portion being beautifully punished for it. 😂😂

How was your day? Any school starting Mammies? How did you get on/How are you feeling? 😙😙😙

I am Sad Mum

It’s here. It’s the end of the summer holidays and the night before Workmas. I’m a bit of a wreck today if I’m honest Ladies.

It’s as if Princess knows too. She’s climbed up on me for cuddles 43 times, and run to me to be lifted 83 times. It’s as if she has a sixth sense. Little skitter. 😅😣 And Mini-Me has been the PERFECT child today. Perfect. I shit you not. I didn’t have to raise my voice once today. She told me she loved me 3 times, did EVERYTHING I asked her to, AND she ASKED if she could dust the telly. (Now, this might have been because it hasn’t been cleaned in eleventy squillion months and she couldn’t SEE it, but I’ll take it.) 😅

I’ve spent the day organising wardrobes and drawers, because let’s be honest, it’s easier to get everyone out the door when you actually KNOW where clothes are. 😅(Is it bad that I sometimes consider going to Penneysbest and just BUYING new clothes for them instead of facing the pit that is my tiddilyday room? )

I stopped short of rearranging all the furniture in the house for two reasons:

1. I prefer to keep THAT trick for when The Him’s not expecting it. And today, he’s expecting it. He knows what I’m like!😈😈

2. I didn’t have time between all the laundry and cuddles.😣

I’ve loved being off with my girls.💖 The summer has been good to us. I have a heart full of memories and a phone full of photographs.

Yes, I hate the thought of dropping them off tomorrow and I’m dreading how long I’m going to be away from them each day, but don’t we all? 😥

Don’t get me wrong, a part of me is actually looking forward to going back to my other job, but after 2 years of being off or part-time, Me going back to work full-time is going to be a serious shock to everyone’s system. Has to be done though. It’s time to pull up the big girl knickers, dig out my teacher clothes and put on makeup every day again! (The thought of it!) 😣😣

But for tonight, I’m going to finish the summer with a large G&T and try to finally finish my blog post on our trip to NYC. I figure if I spend tonight looking back on summer, I don’t have to deal with it being over…until the morning!

Cheers Supermums xxx

I am “So it’s Results Day” Mum

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest. The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure. As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat. It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN. At 17. Turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things. I just didn’t get to take exams in singing, dancing, shopping or eating. The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or pulling pints. So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my math grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there. Now, almost 20 years on, I’m a teacher and of COURSE I value the Leaving Cert. I love teaching the course and I try my best to encourage my Babbies to give it their best shot. But I also know that they are teenagers. That they have a LOT going on. That some of them have things going on in their lives that are a WHOLE lot more important that exams. 😢 That whole some of them will give it their ALL for 2 years, on the day of the exam, it might just not happen. And sometimes, that at 18, they’re just not quite ready for the ridiculousnpressure of the state exam.

For a whole load of reasons, tomorrow is a huge day for our young adults. But that little brown envelope is only that. An envelope. Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world. Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect. Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

The Leaving Cert does NOT know our children. It doesn’t see the kindness. It doesn’t measure their ability to change things. It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers. It does not define them, nor should it. And as parents, yes, some of us might be disappointed tomorrow. But mostly we should be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, they are OUR children and they have done their best and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want. Because WE know what they can be.

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however. But they will. 💕

So tonight, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper tomorrow, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way. But all roads lead ahead. And before they know it, they won’t even remember what was printed on the page!

It might be almost 20 years since I opened my little brown envelope and had my heart broken in a million pieces, but trust me, everything happens for a reason. 😇 Tonight, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents whose minions face the brown envelope tomorrow.

And remember, that little brown envelope does NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper can change that. XXX

I am Sleepy Mum

“I am vewy disappointed in your behaviour!”

These are the words that I heard through the baby monitor at around 3am. I heaved my backside out of bed and waddled across the hall to see who exactly had disappointed my threenager at this ridiculous hour.

sleepy

Mini-me was sitting upright in her bed, having assembled her dollies and teddy bears around her and was wide awake and quite happily giving orders and giving out to her audience.

“Are you Ok Baby?” I asked carefully.

“I’m the teacher Mammy,” she announced as if this was perfectly acceptable behaviour in the middle of the night.

“Percy Penguin had to go in the naughty corner cos he’s been very cheeky and I’m very disappointed wif his behaviour.”

In the dim light from the hall, I could see that poor Percy was lying, fluffy arse up, in the toy box, having obviously been launched across the room by Teacher.

What had he done?  Who knows, but it was enough to warrant his banishment to the dark side. And Mini-Me was determined that he deserved his punishment.

“Aw Poor Percy. Will Mammy lift him up to you again?” I ventured.

“No!  He is not being a very good penguin!” she scolded.

“Okay, okay.  Can you please go back to sleep now Honey?  It’s the middle of the night.”

“But Mammy, I have to be the teacher!”

“You can be the teacher in the morning.”

You can imagine the rest of the conversation.  As I sat at the bottom of the bed, begging her to go back to sleep, I struggled not to laugh at the utter determination on her face as she completely and truly believed everything that was taking place in her imagination.  And yet, I couldn’t help but stare and smile at how utterly beautiful her innocent little face was in the nightlight.  Everything that was happening in her mind was absolutely real to her. And if it hadn’t been the middle of the night, I would have encouraged it.

Humorous little girl playing teacher in classroom

Since starting Pre-school, Little Miss Bossy Pants has been blossoming by the day. Her imagination has exploded from already very vivid, to absolutely crazy.  She’s mimicking her lovely new teachers.  She’s turned her teddybears into her “students”.  Even though she’s never seen me in the classroom, she’s playing the “School teacher” in a way that maybe only the daughter of one, can.

She eventually went back to sleep.  I eventually got back to my own bed.  As shattered as I was, it was a relief that she was awake for such silly reasons.  She wasn’t sick.  She wasn’t having bad dreams and she wasn’t crying.  So I had nothing to complain about.  I drifted back to sleep, laughing to myself at the ridiculousness of the conversations one can have with a three year old at 4am.

Maybe she’s doing me a favour.  Maybe she’s so clever that she’s easing Mammy into the world of sleepless nights again in preparation for Babba number 2? Or Maybe Percy was quite simply being a bold penguin.

Regardless of what exactly caused her to leave her dreams and wake up for full-on playtime at stupid o’clock, she bounced out of bed this morning and happily lifted Percy Penguin from his exile.  Putting him back on the bed, she announced “Now, I hope you’ve learned your lesson Percy.  I don’t want to see that behaviour again.”  Whatever his crime, she hadn’t forgotten, but she’d forgiven him.

In the same way, as parents, we quickly forget the pain of being ripped from our sleep in the middle of the night as long as our little rascals are Ok.

But tonight, if she decides to play Teacher, I hope that Poor Percy behaves himself!

I am Sleepy Mum. 🙂

tired

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I am Starting Pre-School Mum

back to school

Tonight, I’m a little bit more emotional than usual.

Tomorrow, my little Mini Me will be taking her first steps into the big bad world without Mammy or Daddy.

Now I am fully aware that starting Pre-school is not quite the same as starting School School, but for the first time ever, I can empathise with all of the “Starting school” parents.  I can’t even begin to fathom how I’m going to feel this time next year when I’m packing her school bag for Baby infants.

It’s a typical last Sunday night in August.  For 30 years, it’s been a dreaded Sunday night because it marks the first day back at school for this Teacher Mum.  I never actually left the education system, so it’s routine by now.   Every year, I insist on going out somewhere for the day. I refuse to cook dinner.  I try to get an early night.  But this year, it’s not about me.  It’s about Mini-Me.

Her new outfit is perfectly pressed and hanging in the bedroom.  I have everything that she needs laid out for the morning. The table is already set for breakfast. She’s been read a special storybook that Daddy found online about her first day at pre-school and has been tucked in to dream of fairies and muddy puddles.

And I’m trying not to think about the fact that tomorrow is yet another first in my baby’s life.

I’m leaving her to the same childcare place that she usually goes to, but she’s going into her Big Girl classroom.  And she’s going to be going 5 days a week, instead of 2. It’s really no big change.  She’s more than ready for it and she’s so excited about starting Naoínra that it’s quite contagious.  It’s all good.  She could be terrified and refusing to go, but she isn’t.

And I wonder if that is helping Mammy or making me feel worse.

As parents, we have to let our babies grow up.  We mark every milestone.  We remember every achievement. We let them go into the world, little by little, and just hope that what they receive from us at home is enough to arm them for what the world holds for them.  Every little step is essential, and indeed we are very aware of how blessed we are that our mini-Me’s are healthy and able to step into the world.  But it doesn’t mean we have to be absolutely happy about it, all the time!

As parents, we also have to trust…To trust the people who will be responsible for looking after our little darlings.  We have to trust that their teachers will care for them; that they will be kind to them; that they will give their all to make them who they can be.

teaching

So while I feel that I need at least an hour with her new teacher tomorrow morning to go through a crash course, with power point presentation if I could, on what my Little Darling likes, what she’s afraid of, her habits, what upsets her, how she needs help with some things, how brilliant she is at other things and basically, everything about her, I know that I’ll drop her at the door with a smile, tell her to be a good girl and to have fun, and get into the car.

Then I’ll probably bawl my way to work.

But it’ll be fine, because I’ve realised that while I’m entrusting a teacher with the single most important thing in my world, I get to return the favour to other Starting-School Mums.  Because for the first time, I truly understand the angst and terror of the Mammies and Daddies who drop their kiddies off at our school’s big blue door every September.  I finally understand that I’m not just there to teach them English.  I’m there to care for them; to be kind to them; and to give my all to help mould them into who they can be.  And it’s the second best job in the world.

And while tomorrow she is only starting Pre-school, it is indeed a big deal for our little family and for my little Princess.  Yes, it might be just another day, but it’s one that we’ll remember forever.  Yes, it’s going to be emotional, but it’s good emotion.

And to all of the Mammies and Daddies whose little Darlings are taking their first steps into Pre-school, School School, Secondary School or indeed third level,  I send all of my S-mum love and good wishes, because tomorrow is most likely going to be harder on you than it is on our kids.

So we’ll put on our big girl (or boy) pants and we’ll suck it up.

Because we are Starting School Mums (and Dads).  🙂

PS.  This has been going around in my head all day.

Wee Hughie  
Author: Elizabeth Shane

He’s gone to school, wee Hughie,
An’ him not four,
Sure I saw the fright was in him
When he left the door.

But he took a hand o’ Denny,
An’ a hand o’ Dan,
Wi’ Joe’s owld coat upon him –
Och the poor wee man!

He cut the quarest figure,
More stout not thin:
An’ trotting right and steady
Wi’ his toes turned in.

I watched him to the corner
O’ the big turf stack,
An’ the more his feet went forrit,
Still his head turned back.

I followed to the turnin’
When they passed it by,
God help him he was cryin’,
An’, maybe, so was I.

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