This year, I’m doing the Leaving Cert for the third time. Well, technically, I only sat it once, but the saying goes, if someone in the house is sitting the Leaving Cert, the whole house is sitting the Leaving Cert. So here we are.
This is not my first rodeo. I’ve been the parent of a Leaving Cert student before and I took my responsibilities very seriously. My job then was clear. Make sure she doesn’t stress too much and wake her up in plenty of time for the exams.
She was stressed, I was the calming influence. The yin to her yang, if you will.
And I remembered what my mother-in-law kindly said to me all those years ago, as I was beginning to get nervous about giving birth: “You know love, if I could do it for you, I would.”
And I wondered as the doctor stitched me up afterwards and I, in shock, contemplated the brutality of childbirth and the utterly flawed design of the baby’s exit route, how a person could lie so easily.
Until almost 18 years later, when I put my hand reassuringly on my daughter’s arm as she worried about the Leaving Cert and said: “You know love, if I could do it for you, I would.”
As for the seagulls and crows, the level of terror they induce means only dogs can hear my screams
We both know now, that wasn’t true.
But now, with T minus roughly two weeks to go, my job is less clear. He who is about to sit the exam that nightmares are built upon is very “chill”. Come to think of it, his brother was very chill last year sitting the Junior Cycle exams. Perhaps this is a “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” moment, I can’t be sure. All I know is, at this moment, everything is as us parents swear we want it to be.
His naturally calm manner means I’m more stressed. Because one of us has to be. I am the yang to his yin.
But I’m trying to hide it. Like I try to hide lots of things from my children. Mostly my unjustified fears, silly hang-ups and, dare I admit it, slightly over-the-top reactions to condiments. They’re the things I don’t want them to pick up on for fear they too decide tomato ketchup merits the gag reflex it provokes in me.
Or the completely irrational fear I have of birds. The type that sees you silently crying as you walk down Henry Street because the pigeons just won’t bugger off. They’re a brazen lot, you see. As for the seagulls and crows, the level of terror they induce means only dogs can hear my screams.
And this fear, where did it stem from? Seeing my mother also terrified of birds, I think. It gave me reason to think there was a need to be fearful, although I’m pretty sure her encounters with birds have been no more terrifying than obstinate pigeons. My mother plays it hard sometimes and says a budgerigar once flew close by her head in my nana and grandad’s sitting room.
I’m not sure I’ve been as successful at hiding my fears as I’d hoped. “What’s your worst fear?” one small boy asked another as we drove home recently. Without waiting for a response from his brother, he chirped: “I know mum’s. It’s rollercoasters.”
I saw The Omen when I was about 10 or 11. It don’t think it especially bothered me at the time. But then I got old
“That’s not strictly tru . . . ” I began before he continued with his explanation to his younger audience. “She didn’t used to be like that. She used to love them [also not strictly true] but then she got old and now she’s afraid of them. That happens you see, you can just get more scared.”
I was ready to challenge the assertion that I was old, but really, I just wanted to shut down the conversation before they uncovered even more things I was terrified of, so I left them to their chats.
At this point of writing, I glanced to the corner of my laptop to check the time, planning to retire for the night and continue tomorrow. But it informed me I had 666 words written. I have a thing about that number so I typed furiously. I saw The Omen when I was about 10 or 11. It don’t think it especially bothered me at the time. But then I got old.
It’s another irrational fear I’d rather not share with my offspring. Fear can be contagious. A bit like stress, I suppose.
So instead, I’ll concentrate on not stressing the non-stressed one. It’s a strange position to be in, to be the observer of an experience that’s haunted your dreams. And I’ll be self-designated chief-waker-upper on the mornings of exams, again, just to feel I’m doing something.
My third time doing the Leaving Cert. You’d think it’d get easier.