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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Exam Stress

I didn't get it at first. When I picked him up from school, Little Boy was cheerful and happy that he had earned 40 cents of profit from selling something.

- "Did you have a good day?" I asked.
- "Yeah!" he said.

So I left him to his own devices. After all, there is so much to do at this stage of my life that I can't be ever watchful... ever vigilant... and ever ready. For efficiency and effectiveness, one learns to swoop in for a close look, and then swoop out when nothing seems the matter. And for sure, nothing seemed the matter when I checked on Little Boy at noon.

So I went and did other pressing stuff.

Over the course of the afternoon, Little Boy remarked about 3 times that he had never been so worried about exams before. The remarks brushed at the corners of my consciousness as I went about busy with other stuff. After all, in the week just before exams, Little Boy is not allowed to study. The rule is meant to ensure that he has enough rest and relaxation to be in top form for exams. So, "hmmmmm" was all I said.

Then as I prepared for bed, Little Boy came upstairs to insist "When you're done, please come and get me. I need you to cuddle me to sleep." And I said "hmmmmmm" again.

Then I forgot. Oh bad bad mother!!

Anyway, Little Boy found his way back into his old spot between Daddy and Mommy... a humongous piglet wiggling and snuffling... until all we could see were 2 eyes peeking out from under the quilt. He was a bit upset that I hadn't gone to get him, but I guess the important thing was that he was where he wanted to be - in that warm safe place between his Mommy and his Daddy.

And then it all came out. Teacher had given some Math worksheets to do which Little Boy couldn't do, and it was already the day before the Math exam. And before long, as Little Boy tossed and turned and wiggled into his Mommy's comforting embrace, he started to wail "I've neeeeeever not known *sniffle* how to do her worksheets befooooooooooooore" (which really isn't true). If such questions come *sob* out *sob sob* tomorrow, I will not do weeeeeeeeell". And then the tears came in huge drops.

Now he got my attention.... and his father's too.

We sat there and assured him that EVEN IF there were questions he didn't know how to do, then that's just too bad... that his job is to ensure that he obtained full marks for the questions he COULD do. And that if he gave in to his fear, he would certainly perform less well than he was truly able...

You know, it's really painful to see our little children experience the kind of stress that they should not experience until they're adult. And such stress is experienced even when the child is amply prepared and reasonably confident. It's a good thing for Little Boy that I am not a parent who will cane when results are poor... and that I am there (well sort of) when he needs to confide in someone.

What about the intelligent children who don't have such emotional support at home? What about those whose parents yell and scream? What about those whose parents work till late? What about those whose parents pay all they can afford for Tutors who teach the material, but fail to realise that knowing the material is only half what it takes to make it?

How do those little ones cope?

The Singapore Education system has become one wherein reasonable intelligence is no longer enough to get by. One needs access to high quality family support too. Our educational system has become a test of family unity and love, more than a test of student ability.


Blur Ting said...

Oh dear. Poor Little Boy! Luckily he has good loving parents to support him.

petunialee said...

Ting - I could have been more sensitive though... Didn't realised that he was so unhappy till quite late. And he was so cute. He said that he thought he could play a lot and make himself feel better. Then he realised that play doesn't work.

Blur Ting said...

That poor boy must be suffering inside until he couldn't take it anymore. Kids (no matter how old) ask for cuddles from mummy when they're feeling miserable. :-)

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

i totally agree with u and the other part of me is sighing in relief tat tis sorta days didn't get me in my youth. the 80s education system were very pure and straight-forward.

Wen-ai said...

Little Boy is so blessed to have you as a mum. I hope Little Boy is feeling better now... Only primary school and already going through this kind of stress! I'm sure he will do just fine in his studies, and eventually in life because he has such loving and supporting parents. :)

Malar said...

Oh dear! I hope he is feeling better now and will do his best in exam! You are wonderful mother!

Your blog always give me many lesson in bringing up my little boy!

petunialee said...

Wen-Ai: I guess it's sometimes difficult at that age to know that grades aren't everything... Maybe it's difficult at any age. Haha! But I think that as long as he had put in due diligence, it's fine by me. And if he falls flat on his face, he's still mine to love and cherish.

petunialee said...

Malar - Gee... I'm not sure I'm that great a mother. Some days, when they misbehave I feel like a failure, wondering what I did wrong to get the kind of naughtiness they demonstrate. Happily though, neither give me concern when it comes to schoolwork.

Blur Ting said...

Petunia - All kids will misbehave at some point. They're just using us as a guinea pig to test our limits. I used to have to deal with massive tantrums when my kids were at that age. I would end up dissolving in tears and feeling like a failure because I didn't know how to deal with them. But these tantrums dissapeared after the age of 12.

Unknown said...

OUr kids life do not have to be "smooth sailing". It is good that they experience something that they couldnt do every now and then especially when they are young as they are going to face them in their adult life. Most importantly is how they handle them and how we parents provide supportive environment for them to take on challenges. Little boy is indeed very blessed to have loving parents to help him. I m sure he will grow up to be a strong man :)

Petunia Lee said...

Unknown - I agree that kids' lives should not be too smooth sailing. Nonetheless there is a certain amount of judgment needed to know HOW MUCH to throw at them and WHAT to throw them into. There is such a thing as age appropriateness... and it is a fine balance in order to build strong and productive adults out of children. After all, I suppose that in the slums of Bombay... life is really not smooth sailing. What the children grow up into is something else.

I think the children should learn love, kindness and forbearance when young. They cannot learn that in an system that is characterized by cut-throat competition from an early age (on the pretext that adult life is cut-throat). If we teach our kids this way, you and I will grow into old age in a world where adults are ruthless and unkind. Why? Because we taught to the children TODAY... who will grow into adults of TOMORROW.

A bit of competition is good. Too much warps and deforms too many kids. Why do you think Singaporeans are so unkind to each other and so lacking in graciousness?