My teen’s logic is as confusing as Brexit
London - On my teenage daughter’s wall there is an impressive colour-coded chart. It’s a work of art and has obviously taken much time and patience to complete.
This is her exam revision timetable, a vision of studious intent that filled me with maternal joy and pride when I first saw it.
“Ah, my work here is done,” I mumbled smugly, fantasising about what I might wear to watch her collect a Nobel Prize.
But this was a fleeting glimpse of what successful parenting feels like, for her chart seems to be nothing more than a work of art. It’s certainly not a practical aid to the hours of revision I assumed were occurring in her bedroom. As far as I can tell, little studying has occurred in the lead-up to this fraught and stressful exam week.
On one day, my 13-year-old seemed to have spent an hour checking her eyebrows were even, found the lids to all her pens and carefully paired up her earrings. But not opened a book.
Every time I quiz her on this she becomes predictably cross and gives a ranting monologue that ends with perplexing teen phrases such as: “And besides, Mum, no one speaks Spanish anywhere in the world any more.”
She states these made-up “facts” with such conviction I almost believe she’s right. Her bedroom has become a vortex for logic. My favourite pronouncement this week has been: “You can’t learn what you don’t know, so there’s no point in revising.” It’s as confusing as Brexit.
And during the time she should be studying, she appears instead to be compiling a list of successful people who have no qualifications.
There is nothing more frustrating than a procrastinating teenager: her making cups of tea in preparation for not revising is exhausting me, and I don’t know how firm to be on the matter.
Experts advise parents to let revising teens get on with things without interference. But everything is a distraction for her and, apparently, I have been giving her “the look” which, she says, is also a bar to revision.
A volcanic emotional eruption occurred when I banned the use of her mobile phone in the evenings of exam week. This is apparently a breach of her human rights and the “worst thing” I’ve ever done (it’s a long list). She claims I am the only mother in history ever to do this — another inaccurate fact according to Facebook, where I notice many mothers posting pictures of confiscated phones.
I asked friends what their rules around revision are and the responses confused me even more. Some have banned phones after 9pm, one had no idea it was exam week and another spoke of hours of quiet revision.
Mr Candy believes we should leave well alone. He finds it much easier to ignore the lack of revision enthusiasm than I do, and now an air of tension hangs in the kitchen.
Our five-year-old, Mabel, has picked up on this and become a miniature mimic, delighting in admonishing her sister.
“Shouldn’t you be revising?” she says every time the eldest opens the biscuit tin or goes to the loo.
I think the only thing more stressful for mothers than exam week would be for us to actually do the exams ourselves, so I have decided to follow my husband’s advice and back off.
Besides, urban offspring never leave home any more because they can’t afford to live alone — so it’s unwise to fall out this early on. The fact that she created a revision plan in the first place is a sign of good intent, and I’ll settle for being happy about that.
I stopped Googling “teenagers and exams” when I found some information that put a positive spin on the whole matter. Apparently, statistically, the most successful people aren’t always the most academically smart, they’re just the most persistent.
If I know my eldest as well as I think I do, then everything should turn out okay.
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine