It was the much-awaited end of a dark and dreary period. The light at the end of the tunnel. The moment the clouds parted to reveal the glorious sunshine. The relief after hardship.
It was the end of the kids' formal assessments/exams.
The three weeks of formal assessments had been every bit as challenging as I had anticipated, and then some. It had been the very first time I'd had to face final formal assessments with 3 school going kids. And I was not doing well at it.
There was enormous pressure for Shakeel (12) to succeed, since he is facing high school in 2013 and it is important that he tries to get a bursary. Our frustration was that he had, until recently, achieved top marks for most subjects. Recently however, after a girl in his class beat him in one or two subjects, he has just conceded defeat. He will not even try to reclaim his position, and just accepts that he cannot achieve the same level of performance ever again.
His dad and I, out of sheer frustration, decided to provide some motivation for him. He loves (and I mean really loves) his Playstation. He has wanted a 320 gig Playstation 3 with move for a very long time, so hubby bought it and showed it to him. He would however only get to keep it if he achieves the same level of results as before; otherwise it would be sold. So Shakeel put in immense effort (annoyingly not at all motivated by the prospect of being awarded a much-needed bursary), but in the hope that the Playstation will soon be his to keep.
The formal assessment period had some weird effect on Tharaa (9). She became more playful than ever and just didn't take my threats, begging or even my punishment seriously. I'd give her questions to answer and find her drawing. Most of my energy went into getting her to focus or just to take the formal assessments seriously.
Yesterday was particularly stressful, since she wrote her Natural Science paper this morning. I hadn't been in a particularly happy mood to start with, so her jokiness was even more annoying than usual.
"Focus on your work. You are making me insane. You are going to be sorry!" she sang to the tune of Adele's "Someone like you", enjoying her irritating game of singing all my threats back at me. My head buzzed with four-letter words (while some managed to slip out, much to her amusement).
Over the past few months (even before these assessments), Shakeel and Tharaa had taken most of my attention and time; the former because the stakes are so high this time and the latter because, well, I think she regards school work as a way to entertain herself at my expense.
In addition Aisha (2) is extremely clingy and does not want to share my attention with the others, which makes it very difficult to work with them. One particularly frustrating afternoon last week, as she clung to me, I wished she had a little friend to play with. But then I thought, many kids who don't have friends, create them. So I pointed to a corner and said, "See Aisha, see the little girl. She wants to play with you." The poor child shrieked with fear and tried to climb up my leg- it turns out that she has inherited my fear of the unseen. For all I knew, the little girl she had been picturing was the little weirdo from "The Ring".
So, poor Nuha (6)'s homework has been neglected by me for a while now; with her dad doing it at the last minute outside the school gates before signing her homework diary. I had no idea what the poor thing was learning at any given time, as there was just too little time after they came from school in the afternoons.
Last week she came home saying that I should help her with her spelling words, which she would be tested on in her formal assessments. They were doing the 'sh' and 'th' sounds.
"Spell 'wish'," I said, "as in 'I wish this formal assessment was over".
"W-i-s-h", she spelled out.
"Spell 'gosh' " I instructed.
"OMG," she responded earnestly, surprising me with her knowledge of internet slang (for which I blame Selena Gomez).
So this afternoon, I was ecstatic when they returned from school, signalling the end of the formal assessments. Finally I could breathe again, smile again-after three weeks of blood, sweat and tears. And just in time to celebrate Tharaa's birthday tomorrow.