From the editor’s desk: If you’re disappointed with your child’s exam results, it’s time for you to grow up

If there’s a reason I haven’t addressed the issue of exam results in any of our stories this week, it’s because it is a charged time. Fears are running high and tempers are running wild. No, I know a lot of us are going to say that we aren’t disappointed with our children’s results, but the truth is that we are. We may not show it, but we definitely are. It’s how parents are wired.

Our disappointment stems not from not loving our kids enough but from the fact that we worry they won’t make anything of themselves in the future if they don’t do well for themselves in school. And it’s probably a valid fear. A fear that manifests your own failures as a child or young adult when you attributed your lack of success to you not having worked hard enough. It’s a fear that takes you back to all your insecurities about holding your head up high in your circle of friends, or even on Facebook.

Speaking of which, I got off Facebook entirely nearly a year ago (and haven’t missed it one day since) but I remember every year when results time happened. There would be scores of parents flaunting their child’s marks and thanking god for helping their child achieve those feats. While that was, of course, the obvious thing, something else stood out ostensibly by its absence. Those parents who were congratulating parents of achievers and who had kids the same age: some of those parents didn’t have a thing to say about their children’s marks. I took it offline and found out that their kids hadn’t done well. That there was stress at home, and an extended sort of anger for weeks after the results came out because the Facebook posts of those who did well kept popping up on their feeds, which made things very difficult. One among those reasons was common friends would good-naturedly ask, “Hey, how much did our Akanksha score,” and the said Akanksha’s parents would have to reluctantly tell their friends that she didn’t do so well, quickly followed up by some explanation of why it was so.

This is a sad place for those parents to be in. The reasons could be myriad, and none of them is because their child is less bright. I firmly believe it isn’t the child that is the problem. If we need to harbour disappointment, let us harbour disappointment in the system of education that tests children’s memory and not their capacity to learn and use that learning. If we have to be disappointed, let us focus our disappointment on teachers who treat an entire classroom as if they were all one kind of kid, and then treat the one or two kids differently because they are good at a certain subject. Let’s make our disappointment felt in a system that doesn’t allow children to think for themselves — which of us hasn’t faced this line when we were in school: “Don’t write in your own words. Write in exactly the words that I told you to write in. That is how you will get marks.” Let’s express our disappointment in schools that don’t think twice about pitting one child against another, one friend against another. For all year,  kids are making friends with other kids, sharing the burden of growing up and come exam time, they are all meant to look out for themselves. What kind of environment is that? What kind of values are you teaching your kids? That it’s all ok to be friends as long as your own reputation, future and achievement is not at stake? Is that how you want them to grow up? Because this is the kind of child that grows into an adult without empathy, someone who is entirely focused on making himself or herself do better at any cost.

I know there are families still struggling with bad results. Children who are going to school every day guilty and burdened because their parents are not happy. Oh you think your child doesn’t know you’re disappointed? Please take a look at her again. You may not have said a word but I guarantee you she knows very clearly that you think she has let you down. She knows very clearly that you are hoping she will do better. It will take till the first term of her school for her to get rid of that burden. But she’ll get there. In the meanwhile, there’s something you can do. Which is mainly grow up. Who is the adult in your household? You are. Who can handle their feelings better in your household? You can. So why is the burden of doing better and meeting your expectation on a poor child who already has a lot on her plate? Why aren’t you the one talking yourself out of that web of impossible expectation that you have wove for yourself? You’re the adult, right? Behave like one.

If you’re still feeling bad about your child’s results, put your own disappointment aside and think of her. Think of how, if you tie her performance to your disappointment, she’s going to live the rest of her life trying to do things to make you happy. From small things like the way she keeps home and chooses her friends to big things like chasing a career and choosing a partner. You’re the adult, you’re the parent. You’re the one who can give her wings.

Giving your child wings when he or she is older is about how much you empathise with her, but in their younger days, giving your child wings means to give them the means to be physically and therefore, emotionally, and mentally strong. One of those things is to have them eat foods that boost their immunity. Try this list of foods that will help. As a connected story, a lot of us have problems getting our kids to eat their vegetables. Here is a list of sureshot ways to get yours to eat theirs.  One particular piece I liked this week and would like to offer to you in my round up is this new piece for new mothers which talks about the things every one of them would like to hear. Dads, are you listening? And in keeping with going back to school, if you haven’t bought your supplies already, keep this guide handy when you buy your child’s bottle and lunch box so they can carry their food safely.

Until next week.

Sandhya

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