On June 10, when my 16-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son are sitting GCSEs and A2s simultaneously, the tension will be unbearable. I may spontaneously combust.
At this late stage, I have two major anxieties. The first is whether enough revision has taken place. There are piles of paper all over the house. There are arch lever files. There are handy little memory cards. But is that enough? These days you have to get 100% in everything.
My second worry is that we'll oversleep and miss the exams altogether. Of course this isn't likely. We live on a London street, and there are usually helpful people shouting at 6am. But I have had a recurring nightmare about missing an exam for most of my life, and the floodgates of terror are now well and truly open.
What makes it worse is that I have no control over events. I can wake them up (with difficulty. But the mounting hysteria helps). I can tempt them with toast and orange juice. I can skate around the house finding ink cartridges and lucky pencil sharpeners. But then they slam the front door behind them, and I can do absolutely nothing except spend the next three hours frozen with terror wondering whether they ever actually got there.
My eldest, who has now left home, had the habit of timing his walk to school so that he arrived just a few minutes before the exam started. This meant, he said, that he didn't have to hang around listening to people a) bragging about all the revision they'd done, or b) pretending not to have done any revision at all.
'If you don't have to listen to other people,' he said, 'you don't panic.'
'But it's cutting it too fine!' I said. 'What if you have an accident on the way?'
He looked at me. 'If I have an accident on the way,' he said, 'I won't be taking the exam anyway.'
To my utter despair, my 18-year-old is following the same pattern. He saunters off for a nine o'clock exam as if he has all the time in the world.
I will try to persuade my 16-year-old that there's no shame in arriving early.
But my chances of success are absolutely nil.
Are you in stress exam mode? Good luck!
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