I was brought up in a very academically oriented household, maybe unsurprisingly with my Indian heritage (!) My parents strongly believed that all successful roads in life originate from diligent study and a “good” education. So people who know me may double take when I say I exams are not the “be all and end all”.
I know this from my own journey and also as a mother I have learned that sometimes life turns things upside down and what is important is thrown into the spotlight and you get that all important perspective.
Was that a little bit cryptic? Let me share with you what has been going on.
Yesterday, my daughter sat her first A-level Maths paper. This is however, the only subject she will be sitting this summer. After being severely lethargic, not sleeping, having migraines for days on end and sore throats for over six weeks coupled with hardly any appetite I managed a few weeks ago to finally get her to agree to go to the doctor and have a blood test.
Needless to say, I have been consumed with worry with all sorts of diagnoses running through my head, because as I have said before mothers, and fathers, are hardwired to worry for our children.
The day after the test, the GP called and I knew something was up. She said my daughter had glandular fever and extremely impaired liver function, which can often happen with the virus.
Whilst I was relieved to have a diagnosis, I did feel like a complete failure as a mother. My daughter is 18, and extremely strong willed, but I am her mother and it my job to look after her. I had dropped the ball.
Anyway, my daughter continued to drag herself out of bed trying to revise for as many hours possible. The doctor said, “Give into the tiredness,” to which my daughter replied, “ I can’t, these my A-levels and I have been working for two years for this moment.”
Then last week, I went into her room to find her sobbing inconsolably. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you are parent or not, our hearts always ache when someone we love is suffering. “I can’t do it Mummy, I’m not ready, I can’t concentrate and I can’t remember everything. “
In that moment, I knew exactly what to do. “Right, what if we hit pause and you don’t do your exams this year? “How?” She said. “Well, you were taking year off anyway, and not going to university till September 2016, so you’re not delaying anything,” I continued.
And then I said something, right out of my own mother’s handbook, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”
So, as family we put a plan in place. Maths this year, but the subjects that require a lot of learning are on hold. And I must say her school has been incredible. In fact, after our last meeting at school, I could visibly see the weights and worries my daughter had been internalising, for months, lifting.
I’m not saying that exams are not important; of course they are, if you’re doing them. And I do believe that if you commit to something, whatever that is, you should give it your all.
But sometimes, life throws you a curve ball and put things squarely into perspective. Looking back on my life so far, it is the challenges I have faced that have made me stronger and defined me, more so than the qualifications on my CV.
My mantra for my kids, ever since they were born, has been “healthy, happy and safe”, because I believe if those three things are in place, everything else follows. So, I guess I’ll just keep trying.
PS: And for those of you who know my daughter…we are a way off 100% health…but she is definitely headed in the right direction.