Friday, 29 February 2008

Joining the board wagon

It was building up...we had been waiting for this. A mixture of hope, anticipation, stress and fatigue for my daughter taking her ICSE exams today, and ditto for her parents.

Preparations had begun early since she started with Class IX. Hard work, burning the midnight oil, phases of intense hope, alternating with utter despair were some of the moods she went through. There were times she whined and wanted to be cuddled and pampered like a two-year old and at others she surprised me by being unrecognisable, remote like another woman my age.

All parents of children who have sat for boards in India know what one goes through. It is like a pregnancy followed by labour, and the results, the birth of a new child.

Parents have to swing between tender loving care, firmness, building confidence and fault finding (never accusing). 'Build on the strengths and plug the loopholes', I would say. 'Strategise', my husband would advise. I have complete faith in my husband as a master strategist, as he has the distinction of cracking almost every competitive examination he has sat for.

Today, as she is writing her first paper in the ICSE exams, I sit and revisit my long forgotten blog site. A strangely reminiscent mood has descended upon me as I look back to the day, when she, a a five-year old joined the kindergarten section of her school. A shy child, she loved pets and the headmistress had to break the ice by taking her on a walk to look at the new kittens the school cat had given birth to. I even remember she was wearing a black t-shirt teamed with a black and white checked skirt and her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She looked serious then. She still has a ponytail today and still looks serious!

I recall seeing the same set of parents of her classmates on the day of the admission, as I saw them today. How times fly...They still look the same, except for a few lines and some strands of grey.

I was going through the papers today and I came across this editorial piece in the Hindustan Times:

Feeling board
Sadhna Shanker

February 28, 2008

She is perpetually surrounded by books, spending hours on the phone and in her night clothes, looks harried and doesn’t step out of the house. A tenth grader, she is going to face her first board exams in March. The house is inhabited by a strange child these days. Her smile has vanished; she actually eats whatever is placed before her without even a whimper; she says no to shopping and eating out; and looks preoccupied all the time. I can’t imagine that this is my daughter!

The young lady who spent hours preening before the mirror as she went through various sets of clothes, now lopes around the house dressed in what she would have earlier called ‘rags’. If I push her to change, she tells me that dressed like this she has no urge to step out and so can concentrate better. Her contact with the outside world is through her mobile phone that rings less and less frequently now.

All her friends are in the same situation. At times there is a flurry of activity on the net and the phone when some common problem is discussed. Otherwise silence prevails. The music system lies unattended and when she watches TV her face bears a guilty look. The ‘board’ child living in my house depresses me no end.

As a ‘board’ mother, I have ensured that there is no target percentage that she needs to achieve. Her decision not to take science in Class 11 has been happily endorsed. As ‘board’ parents, we try to keep the atmosphere in the house as normal as possible and encourage her to take breaks in fresh air.

However, none of this works. There is no let up in the peer pressure that suffocates this generation of over-achievers. The constant coverage in newspapers of how to beat stress seems to only add to the idea that being stressed is hip and happening.

For the last nearly four months the teenage froth of my daughter has vanished under the weight of the forthcoming exams. I eagerly await the end of the exams to reclaim my child, and dream of the time when she will ignite the house again with her tantrums.