Friday, 16 May 2014

Fingers Crossed Friday

It doesn’t matter what age group your child is in, but if he or she is a resident in the UK and of school age, it is very likely that right now they are undergoing  a period of some sort of test or exam. It may be SATs, it may be end of year class assessments, it may be GCSE’s or even A’ levels.  Whatever they are, and however they deal with them, it is always a little bit stressful for the parent. 

In my case, we have had end of year assessments for Little Man – to which I have to confess that I was a bit oblivious, until he came home and told me that he had them, and all the other mummies nodded sagely, and I began to panic that perhaps he should have done some swotting up on the subjects, and now it’s all too late…  I’m not quite so laid back with Middle and Eldest Son.  Middle Son has an air of casualness about his end of year exams that drives me a little bit demented, especially in the light of Eldest Son’s strong work ethic and consistent hours of revision for the GCSEs that he is taking early. 

Where Eldest Son emerges blinking from his room on the shout of ‘Dinner!’, Middle Son saunters downstairs with his headphones round his neck – he likes to revise to music whereas his brother needs absolute quiet.  Eldest Son arranges all of his papers in an orderly fashion whilst Middle Son scrabbles around for a pencil and searches endlessly through files for the topic du jour.  And both of their desks are covered in bits of paper with miniscule writing, as if to make it smaller somehow teleports it into their brains…

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to keep your cool during the exam season, both for parents and for the kids.  I’ve seen sites which advocate encouragement from the parent, easing up on the enforcement of chores, regular breaks for all, good food and reflection time.  I’ve seen sites which say do revision in chunks, do it at regular times of the day and intersperse it with an activity to keep the brain energized.   Who knows what works for what child?  Revision techniques vary in my house alone – so I am sure that one way or another we all find what works for us.

One of those things in our house is Luck.  I’ve noticed that like a lot of people, my kids have things and habits that they consider lucky.  I am guilty of it too.  For example, a good breakfast before an exam is for me a bacon roll.  I’ve no idea where it stemmed from – probably from my own A levels or University, but this morning I got up early to make one for Eldest Son who sits a GCSE today.  He came downstairs and looked at it, and said that he needed something chocolate as well.  On my querying the healthiness of it, he brushed away my statement by saying ‘I had Nutella on toast for the last exam and it was a really good one’.  And so, my mind microfiching through all the advice I’d read on keeping cool – I let him have both.  He put on a pair of lucky patterned socks for the same reason. He then went upstairs to collect Tessa (you may recall her from <An Irish Dog>) my toy dog from when I was a girl, which he shoved at the bottom of his school bag – just her presence in the school would be lucky.  And I remembered doing the same with Tessa during my O and A’levels, and a little tear came to my eye as I waved him good bye and wished him luck.

I don’t know why we rely on lucky charms and habits to give us confidence.  It’s possibly the Dumbo syndrome – you know, the baby elephant of Disney fame that needed a feather to hold in order to fly,  (who actually didn’t need the feather at all) his ears enabled him to fly by himself, but the courage given to him by that talisman enabled him to try in the first place. I’ve lost count of the times in which one of my kids has needed that extra confidence and I have given them a little kiss ‘for luck’.  Or left a lipstick kiss on the hand of Little Man for him ‘to keep until I got back’ when we went out in the evening- thus sparing the babysitter endless hours of separation anxiety.  And G still wards off bad luck by making the motion of saluting and spitting over his left shoulder whenever he sees a lone magpie… 

And we are in good company – Bjӧrn Borg famously grew his Lucky Beard before every Wimbledon match after winning his first title and went on to win four more, Serena Williams bounces the ball 5 times before her first serve and twice before her second, and wears the same pair of socks throughout each tournament, Tiger Woods wears something red during each important game, Axl  Rose from Guns ‘n’ Roses never tours in a town beginning with M (that’s Mytchett out then…) and Jennifer Anniston won’t board a plane without first stepping on with her right foot first and tapping on the outside of the plane with the other. And we all know what words you shouldn't say in a theatre setting just before a play.

Sometimes though, we may need to break the focus off a certain object or habit and foist it on to something else.  Regular readers will remember my last post in which I told of Little Man’s little success on the <cricket pitch>.  That evening I washed his whites, and noticed that he had a pair of socks that didn’t belong to him - this is not unusual, we do tend to inherit quite a few bits which I wash and send back into the school. 

‘They’re Gavin’s’, he announced when I queried who their owner was.  I bagged them up and gave them to him to return.
‘Oh no’, he said, mortified, ‘They are my lucky socks!’ 

I tried to explain that actually they weren’t his… His eyes glazed over.  Apparently Gavin had three pairs of white socks in his kit bag and had very generously (as children do…) given them to him. 

I stood firm.  Little Man gave up – and went into school, promising to hand them back.

Lucky habits and talismans, all well and good if they are your thing… and if not, just cross your fingers and plough on…