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Our household isn't completely stress free. Two dogs are gnawing each others' ears as I sit here trying to write, the younger one has just been dragged in for tuition by the teacher and the older one has grunted, stomped his teenaged foot and ended up arguing with me. As I try to type on, the whatsapp moms' groups come alive. From asking the answer to the third question on page 83 to sending long poems about why we love our kids - there are around 21 messages that I do not know what to do about. The stress is in the air. It is March, exams are on and the moms are all wound up.
There are kids who get a fair share of that stress and then there are mine - they paint, sleep, read, draw, dream - basically every activity that is not remotely related to academics is indulged in. So the stress manages to keep me all under pressure for some time before I throw care to the wind and kick it out. But most of my fellow mums remain crushed under the exams. They put themselves under house arrest, keep asking other moms their progress on the syllabus and answer questions regarding the exam preparation in first person - 'We have done four chapters,' or 'we are learning science today.' It nearly sounds like the moms are going to sit for the exams with their children. And eventually get the child to sit in a corner while they furiously jab the answer sheet with their pens.
We seriously need to take a step back and release the pressure. Stop! Sit down. No, I didn't imply that you need a trip to the loo. Though, come to think of it, I do have a friend who gets a serious case of diarrhoea when she is under stress, and who will probably unfriend me as soon as she reads this. So her college days before exams were spent sitting on the pot releasing the pressure. Anyway, if that is the pressure you are under, please feel free to go and sit on the throne. But if the tiny nerve cells are all wound up in small bundles, you seriously need to watch this campaign by Mirinda and try the following:
1. Deep Breathe
No this isn't a yoga or a meditation tutorial. However, after the weekly meditation class, I feel refreshed and ready to let go of undue stress. So try enrolling for a yoga class, an exercise group or something that takes you away from the situation. Try to fight the urge to sit on the child's nerves. You are not doing anyone a favour and no he will not study because you are hyperventilating.
2. Get a reality check
No child studies under duress. So even if you helicopter around, chances are that the child will sit with the textbook open in front of him while he dreams the hour away. So your being around a middle-schooler is futile. I admit that the younger lot needs help but once the child hits middle school, gradually let go. Another part of the reality check is going back to our past. Did you really study for 10 hours straight? Without even the releasing-of-pressure break? If you did, I bow down to thee and fervently hope you don't look at your child as someone who would break your record.
3. Your dreams are yours.
Don't pile your dreams on to the child. You have had your chance. Hell, you still have a chance to go and do what you want to. Just because you think that your dream is worthy of pursuit, do not expect your children to join in. Let them come up with their own dreams, even if they are outrightly ridiculous. When they say they want to be Batman, do not take out the entire artillery. Just wait for them to get back to senses and come up with a different dream. Else start saving up for the bat mobile.
4. Each child is different
Half our problems would disappear if we truly believe that our children are unique. So comparing them with other kids, asking them who got the highest marks when they enthusiastically tell us their own scores, and prodding them to be like the other sibling, cousin or neighbour, is all futile and just adds to our stress and theirs. Instead of burdening them with the delusional memory of our younger selves, or the example of Mrs. Khanna's son who made it to the IIT, it makes more sense if we encourage them to compete with themselves.
5. Failures are important
I see failure not as a missed opportunity but a perfect starting ground to help children learn ways to cope with it. Exams are not just about academic success, they do present an opportunity to learn life skills that the child will always need. If we project the exams as a big a monster that either gets defeated or gobbles you up, we are making the child ill-equipped to handle pressures later on.
6. Don't laugh this off
No it is not all 'fundas' or 'bookish talk.' Look around you, when was the last time your grade tenth marks were recalled during an interview? Think back, are all your schoolmates leading happy lives? Happy lives aren't a logical outcome of fat pay cheques. So even if it sounds outlandish, it does work. Our getting after their lives will not help. As parents, we ought to help them take responsibility for their actions, and learn from their failures. That is the best thing we can do.
7. So no pressure? Wrong.
Although stress is a bad thing, some amount of pressure is essential for the child to get motivated. Simply put, would we seek food if we were not hungry? If there were no pressure, the school textbooks would gather dust and notebooks would be full of doodles. The idea is to strike a balance and be their support system rather than being stress-givers.
8. The World is big enough
Let the child chart his path. Guide him but don't clear the path out for him. The world after all has enough space for everyone. Given a chance, adequate support, and motivation, the child will shine somewhere or the other. What he does is not in our control, but how he ends up fairing doing what he wants to do is something we can help with. We can either train them to blindly run after the first rank or we could teach them to chart their own course, get over road blocks, crawl out of ditches, dust their clothes and get ready for more.
You are doing a fabulous job as a mum and it isn't your personal failure if the child gets an A or for that matter a B instead of A+. The failure is not even theirs. It is just a hurdle. Our job is to help them deal with it, learn from it and move on. So for heaven's sake release that pressure where ever you have to, have a cup of coffee, go for a massage, do whatever it takes to calm down and give the child a hug. Tell him that it is going to be all right. Let him know that the exam isn't the end of everything. It is just the beginning. And there is always the dream of being the Batman. Be Robin for him.
So go on promise yourself not to be that parent. "To take a pledge, give a missed call on 8866288662 or visit www.releasethepressure.in