define the bold wordspublished: 2018-11-01
My son is downstairs in his room and he throws something. I hear him do it. And he grunts angrily. He’s seen it in films. All of it acted and dramatised. But the anxiety isn’t fake, the fear of not knowing how to do this thing we call: Studying for a test. History; he’s only been in high school for a few weeks and already it isn’t his favourite. I don’t tell him it was my worst subject too.
“I don’t know how to study this!” he yells and I go and sit next to him. Tears well up in his eyes. I leaf through the chapters about ancient Egypt and try hard to understand all the information. Some words are in bold, we discover they are defined in the back of the book. Most likely he’s to learn those off by heart.
He whimpers, “will you get angry at me if I fail?”
“No,” I say, “no I won’t”.
We work through the material, he fights sleep. He is insistent on getting it done, even when I say there are limits to what we can do an evening before an exam. But we read it all, study it all, practice it all and he goes to sleep feeling relieved.
“I am stressed,” he says, before his eyes close and I stroke his back. He pushes my hand away as it keeps him awake, he says.
The next morning, during breakfast, I tell him to stop for a minute and ask him to look at me. I take his hands and make sure I have his full attention. I need to tell you something important, I say.
“Once upon a time, there was a girl who studied really, really hard and all the time. She found it hard to make friends but she never failed a single exam. She made really high grades because it gave her a sense of fulfilment and control . That little girl grew up and never quite managed to build a solid career. She also became a sad person. She needed therapy to learn to be happy.”
He listens and nods, a smile dances on his face.
“Do you know who that girl is?” I ask.
He shakes his head, no, he doesn’t. I remain quiet for a moment.
“It’s you mum, isn’t it?”