It’s revision hell at Punggol Eastdale. My son, Avi is sitting for his PSLE this year - papers kick off in the end of this month and there’s barely any time left. From counting down the months, we are down to counting down the weeks… and very soon, days.
With the Oral exams already done with in August, he’s already had a taste of this ‘monster exam’ which is pretty much a highlight in all Primary schoolers' lives. We have stocked up our pantry with the all-time favourite Brand’s Essence of Chicken, but my son is going to need more than just chicken essence to get him by this.
Our home is filled with twitching nerves, tantrums, late-night memorising, flash cards, anxious scanning of the exam timetable. So that’s the mothers, but what are the kids up to?
He seems to be pretty calm, to my surprise (and at most times, horror). I try to tell myself that’s because he’s confident but at the back of my mind I know it’s only because he’s a carefree soul. It’s not that he isn’t hardworking or smart - he’s just not as in-tune into his studies as his elder brother (who sat for his PSLE last year).
‘Don’t compare, don’t do that!’ I keep telling myself. Both my boys are built differently. Both with their own strengths and flaws, but both very very good boys.
The nerves, oh the nerves. Why is it that I feel like I am retaking my PSLE? Only this time, it means so much more than it did years back? I didn’t do that well in my examination, and I turned out alright - why then the need to put myself through all this tension and sleepless nights?
Is it the way competition has become a part of our lives? And that of our kids’? Are we afraid that they won’t get into a good Secondary School, or miss that affiliation perks? Are brand names still important to us when it comes to educational institutions? I am sure many parents will be nodding at this.
I go back into a time not too far back, just last year in fact, when I was going through this with Taj, my older son. He was slightly playful when it came to sitting down to revise, always making excuses to ‘eat something because I am suddenly hungry’, ‘play soccer to unwind for a bit’, or ‘nap because I need to grow’ (yes, he is a joker).
In the end, he did pretty well and got admission to the Secondary school of his choice. But the journey there- that was the tough part. His days were packed with extra classes in school, tuition at home, enrichment classes at nearby centres, and of course, mum’s nagging and revision slots.
At the age of 12, I really wonder if this is what our kids were meant to be doing. I felt bad for him, wishing he could just be outside frolicking in the sun and sand. Or even spending some time playing a computer game (yes, I don’t mind it if it’s done in moderation). Many family dinners and reunions with the extended family saw Taj sitting in one corner, buried in his books.
This sight really broke my heart at times. But what else could we do? This is how a normal day was like for any other kid in his class (according to them when we spent a day at a birthday party). All the mothers were complaining, and saying that there was just so little time in the day for anything else.
Now as Avi sits through his PSLE, I am the same mixed bag of emotions all over again. I can’t wait for this month to be over… October 4th, being his last paper. Maybe I feel more stressed as it is my second year in a row battling the PSLE monster. Maybe it’s something in a mother that makes us automatically panic.
I am trying to stay as calm as I can (thank you lavender aromatherapy), and he is always in my prayers. As I turn over to him as I write this, he is snacking on his favourite chocolate, reading a comic. I laugh at how differently we are taking the stress. But maybe it’s a good thing after all.
Have you ever seen a stress-free student just before an exam? I have.
Have you ever seen a stress-free mother just before an exam? I haven’t!
PSLE mummies, how are you coping with the exam stress? Do share- we would love to hear from you!