Swimming in the S.E.A (Treading Water)

When I wake up in the morning like many people, I usually take the time to pray and meditate before I jump start my day. This morning is different in that my mind is focused solely on my daughter. My emotions are all over the place and I’m finding it hard to clear my head and focus. You see today would have been the S.E.A. exam, the high-stakes test which would have defined my daughter’s graduation from one stage of her life to the next. She’s not alone. This morning approximately 19,000 children in Trinidad and Tobago are feeling a mix of emotions from relief to uncertainty to frustration to bewilderment.

Like many of the 19,000 parents and guardians I had plans. I was going to take the day off today, make sure she eats properly, do a sing-a-long car ride, pray with her before she went in and assure her that she got it in the bag, pray while the exam was going on, give her a big hug when she finished (and probably cry knowing that the months of hard work had finally led us to the end), eat at her favourite restaurant, laugh and play somewhere and then whisk her away to Tobago tomorrow for a mummy-daughter R&R weekend. Then COVID-19 pulled through and said you will do NONE of those things on this Thursday April 2nd 2020 Anno Domini.

This morning even as I type this, I consider life, control, plans and routine. Since the ‘Rona the routine has been to continue working (with reduced time) even though we do not know when the exam is going to be. This in itself is frustration (ask any hamster in a wheel) as my daughter was already getting tired of the constant drilling of Mathematics, Language Arts and Creative Writing and if you know anything about the Trinidad and Tobago education system you know that it is considers examinations first and education second. She was ready to move on with her life and had her heart set on a secondary school which offered a range of exciting things to study creatively beyond those three subjects. I’m torn as I know the appearance of the Coronavirus is completely out of our control (although the spread is). I understand that in life things happen that veer us completely off course from the path we are trodding. I understand and accept the adage: a man plans while God laughs. I get that while my mind does the Dr. Strange thing and anticipates all the million possibilities, there may be one I will miss which may be beyond my control. However, my humanity and my role as a mother makes me feel at this particular point in time that it is not fair.

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I think I should be allowed to feel that way for a bit even while pulling up my big girl panties and while encouraging my daughter to do the same. A brief scan of my social media this morning revealed posts with the general themes of  ‘today was supposed to be the day’, ‘grateful for life, some people didn’t live to see today’, ‘SEA not important in the grand scheme of things’ and ‘this too shall pass’. All of these emotions are important and necessary and I suppose designed to bring comfort and support during these strange-ass times but depending on how I feel I will pick one and then maybe revert to the next after all, I am human. My faith is hugely based on God being in total control, but God also made me human with a range of emotions that I am allowed to feel even while trusting Him to do what he has to do. He did the same with my daughter.

When she wakes up, I plan to gauge how she feels. I know like me she’s going to be unable to pinpoint an exact emotion, her head may be telling her one thing and her heart may be telling her the next and I know I shouldn’t force her one way or the next as today may be difficult.  The best I can do I suppose is to let her know that sometimes in life the ship can sail smoothly from one destination to the next. Other times it can take in water, you may make it to the shore, or you may be forced overboard but you have to keep treading even if you cry. It’s a very, very tiresome thing but it keeps you alive and that’s all that matters.

Corona Thoughts

While in COVID-19 self isolation this evening I slipped into a funk. I spent a shorter time than usual on social media today but this evening I saw a post being shared. It was an amendment to the Public Health Ordinance here in Trinidad and Tobago forbidding public congregation until the 31st of July.

Screenshot_20200319-204716_Word Admittedly at first I was amused in the sense of ‘look at where we reach because Trinis too harden* and can’t do what they’re supposed to do!’ Then I considered how many times I sat to eat or drink in a public space: the mall food court, KFC, TGIFridays, Eddie Hart grounds, the doubles man…to think that this is now an illegal offence is troubling. It’s as though that move concretized the whole thing for me (and it didn’t help that I just finished season 3 of the Handmaid’s Tale).

We are really in a crisis. This is a state of limbo which I hate like most states of limbo. My brain works itself into overdrive. When I considered the amount of money people would lose in this singular industry, particularly people with children, even children in exam classes, it prompted deep thought and a deep shift in perspective for me. Negative vibes came out to play.

So when I feel a hint of anxiety which has the possibility of increasing, in order to ground myself and keep it in check, one of the things I do is to read random stuff (real random things eh like anyone who saw my Google history would probably write me a referral to a special place)😔. I happened upon this article which made the spirit settle a bit and I’m sharing it here so maybe it can help ground someone else. Sometimes you have to see things as they are rather than what your well-intentioned visions were, reality may be easier to accept. I’m working on it.

Read it here⬇️

Psychology Today

Blessings to you

TMIDM

*harden=stubborn

Swimming in the S.E.A. – Part 2 (One virus shall rule them all)

I’m usually the person who tries to examine all possibilities and outcomes of situations and decisions (which is ridiculous since we mere mortals are never in control🙄) but I hate surprises and usually operate from a viewpoint of ‘hope for the best but expect the worst’. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, since my Mam’zelle is so different from my son I have been unable to pin her down with the S.E.A. exam, his progress was predictable, hers was a gypsy rollercoaster. Eventually she became steady and I finally became settled. As the days passed, more and more my load felt lighter and lighter, my daughter felt less and less stressed and we were both on the same page of being ready for the S.E.A. exam to come (and go😒).  I booked a surprise mini-vacay to the sister-isle on April 3rd just for the both of us and  I was reallllly looking forward to those memories: sun, sea, sips, spa-time and silliness……

Then came the Coronavirus.

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Out of all the negative predictions I could have thought up to possibly interrupt the smooth running of her exam I did NOT foresee a global pandemic. At first I wasn’t so concerned as I expected COVID-19 to reach Trinidad, but this past week wrapped up with nationals panic-buying groceries, my house perpetually smelling like Lysol, multiple television addresses, closing of schools for a week and heightened speculation on social media that would make your head spin. This was coupled with no immediate word about the exam and of course further speculation from anxious parents and teachers. What finally triggered me was hearing schools closing in St. Lucia until after Easter, Jamaica closing schools and soon to make a decision about their own exams and then news that the Caribbean Examinations Council office in Jamaica closing with the May/June exams in the air.😳

In the wake of this virus taking over there is a pressing need to take all the necessary precautions but sadly it’s now brought two sets of anxieties for me to manage: high-stakes exam preparation and worldwide crisis. I asked Mam’zelle what she would prefer, for the exam to be moved up or postponed. She replied instantly ‘Moved up! It’s time for me to relax!’. I wholeheartedly agreed although now even the vacation is up in the air because you know….life….sigh….😔

So the waiting game continues as we start this week at home with the exam initially carded for two weeks away. Revision is planned, online sessions are prepared, leisure time is scheduled at home and of course, hands are being washed. I am hoping and praying for some semblance of normalcy even in the face of this absurdity that 2020 continues to dole out.

Blessings and be safe out there!

TMIDM

 

 

 

Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago I received a document from Mam’zelle’s teacher to pick secondary schools as choices for her to be placed after writing the S.E.A. exam (not sure what the S.E.A. exam is? See my previous post here). I took the document home, folded it and put it on my dresser. It has remained there to this day.

I am anxious about this exam and nervous for Mam’zelle to write it. My first Son-son did it already and I was nowhere near as nervous then as I am now and that’s mainly because they are two different children. She is not as excited about schoolwork and does it grudgingly at times. Other times she shoots fireworks from her fingers. I think also because she is a girl and the world works differently for females, that this also influences how I feel. Make no mistake though, other than the (light/heavy) encouragement from me or the hubby, I make it a concerted effort not to display said anxiety. There is no perfection there as sometimes I let it slip but often when I feel it coming on because she can’t remember a particular spelling or mathematical formula, I step away to vent to my husband or I log on to Facebook to commiserate with other parents who feel the same as a result of this dreaded exam.

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Illustration by Shrikrishna-Patkar (www.hindustantimes.com)

I know I’ve reached that part of the S.E.A. ride where it’s pedal to the metal but I’m really praying for this ride to slow down and stop. I can’t imagine having to wait until May so for that alone, I thank God it was moved to March (although it remains high stakes for a shorter period of time). A couple of weeks ago there was a meeting held for the parents of the standard five girls and I was really glad that my feelings were shared even though I didn’t speak to anybody. The taut body language in the room spoke volumes. In all the years I have attended meetings in that school, I have NEVER seen so many parents (especially the dads….kudos!!) turn out for one year group. There was a lot of nervous energy in the room that no amount of ice breakers, talks and presentations could allay. As a matter of fact, after one of the members of staff did her presentation on how placement occurs, the tension rose and I left because I felt like I needed to breathe.

Since then, I have done my part in remaining in close contact with her teacher, making sure she is physically, mentally and spiritually fed and staying abreast of the conversation about S.E.A. on the networks with other parents which can also drive you crazy if you don’t scroll quickly and limit the amount of comments you read. Examples of Math sums, Language exercises and Creative Writing prompts are posted at various times throughout the day from parents who need help and teachers who want to help. It’s as though everyone is trying to make sure that all 14 million possibilities for this exam are considered in all the three subject areas and coupled with questions, concerns and venting about the exam process, it can become very overwhelming.

Mam’zelle is in lessons Monday to Friday and now Saturdays as well. The way I see it, if the help is offered to keep her brain busy then I’m completely ok with that. She enjoys working with her friends and she listens to her teacher sometimes more than me and I am completely ok with that as well. Any sign of burnout is met with shutdown and sleep and thankfully it hasn’t affected her other than the usual tweenage complaints about school. Of course balance is key so while we don’t have the time for her to be as physically active as she used to be, she is still partaking in one extra-curricular activity because you know….life…….

I am taking it day by day and will continue managing my emotions until the end of this S.E.A. nightmare. Hopefully when I finally get around to filling out that placement document, time will have sped up considerably. In the meantime let me organize breakfast on this goodly Saturday morning and ready myself to drop the child to school.

Blessings

TMIDM

My Girl

When I was pregnant in 2008 and told my close friends that I was having a girl, most, if not all, erupted in the “Hm! You will meet your match!” sentiment. I have no idea why. Indeed when Mam’zelle was born there was a different feeling that I got as opposed to when I had my son almost three years prior. My mind churned with all the things I needed her to know about life and living in the world as a girl/woman. I wish I could have just opened up her head and poured all the wisdom and knowledge inside so she could be prepared for what’s out there.

As she grew into her own person, she became very unlike myself in many ways. As a child I was mild-mannered, afraid to rock the boat or break the rules, played quietly with my dolls and could spend hours to a day in a book. She always had a retort, did not like to read, she moved about indignantly when she was upset, was impatient with schoolwork and deliberate when she did stuff to get in trouble. This was unnerving to me and especially infuriating to my mother as my younger sister and I were not like this (and of course naturally, my parenting skills came into question).

I have largely guided my daughter within her own convictions to ensure that even with her personality, she must get the value systems correct even if I have to drill it into her even more so than I had to do with my son. So with things like honesty, compassion and patience, there is greater need for the sitting and the talking. I have long accepted that although it is indeed more work, it is necessary work. I try my utmost not to compare but there are weak moments where as a parent I think the familiar ‘why can’t you behave like your brother/sister?!’ If you are a parent of children with different personalities and you tell me this thought has never crossed your  mind, your pants are on fire.

More and more these days, I look at Mam’zelle and honestly, if  I was worried that seeing our differences would lead to difficulties, recognizing some of our similarities is downright terrifying. She’s nine now and sometimes I see a lot of my childhood/adolescent insecurities in her. Physically my daughter is like me, a thick girl with thick legs and a large posterior which she’s very conscious of, especially as she does swimming and ballet. (In my youth, countless were the times I was told to ‘tuck in the butt!’ while I was at the barre).  She doesn’t like not knowing something even if it’s something she should not know as yet. When she’s doing something she’s unsure of, there’s an anxiety that shadows her face, her palms sweat and her hands shake. She wants to know that everybody around her is happy with her and sometimes loses herself to make sure that this happens. All of these are familiar to me and there are times when I want to tell her DON’T DO THAT!/DON’T FEEL LIKE THAT! but I know deep down that each of us has to grow as we learn, including her.

A couple of years ago she got really sick and at a particular point I was helpless. It was the absolute lowest point of my existence and I desperately cried out to God that if He pulled her through, I would raise her to be a dynamic one and I would fiercely protect her with all my being until He was ready to call her home. I am more protective of her since then and I’m completely OK with that.  I drag her everywhere and let her know about the sacredness of female relationships even in the face of male-female relationships. She knows when she can be vocal and is learning about when she has to dial it back a bit to silence according to the situation. I impress upon her that her existence is vital and her place in the world is secure and even if I am not there to guide her, she must be sensible enough to know how to position herself. Conventional wisdom dictates that you don’t help the butterfly out of the cocoon, the struggle is what makes it strong enough to fly right?

I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter and my mission is to make sure that I take her from a happy, carefree, strong girl to a spirited, compassionate young woman and thankfully, my girl is well on her way.

Bless up

TMIDM

 

Can I breathe please? 

3a763df1eea27563354f7db6bf6c87b8--daily-mantra-inhale-exhale-tattooThese past couple of weeks have been a complete test on my ability to multitask and to do so with all the patience and grace that I could muster.   To say it passed in a blur would greatly understate how I feel at this present point in time. I was actually in the hair salon under a dryer when I started this post, that’s to tell you how possible it was to find a proper minute’s peace. And even now when I’m supposed to be shaking off the shackles of a secondary school term that left me 😥😥😥😥😥, I still feel like somebody owes me a five day for night stay somewhere sunny with a beach  and copious amounts of alcohol (any kind, not picky at this point).

So rather than give a blow by blow of what happened, I think I will just share my not really random thoughts/questions on these various events as they occurred. Nice? Here I go:

ON SON-SON’S GRADUATION

  1. These things should have tissues. I felt so old! Sniff! 😭 I couldn’t concentrate on all those programme items though I was too busy staring into space wondering where the time went. 🙁20170629_114016
  2. I get that schools have a limit to work with but they should really consider opening it up to three invites per graduand, modern families and all that.  There were a lot of visibly irritated “chile mudders” and “chile faddas” present.
  3. All of a sudden I noticed these 11 and 12 year olds standing up posing and talking like they already finished a year in secondary school. Again, whither goeth the time? 😮
  4. Are novelty photo booths a thing now? 🤔 They are everywhere!
  5. I’m glad the term ‘tea plate’ has evolved into a box of sweet AND savoury pastries AND a drink.
  6. What compares to a look of relief on a teacher’s face? (Biased? Yes!)

ON SECONDARY ENTRANCE ASSESSMENT (SEA) RESULTS

  1. This anxiety that I thought evaded me hit me square in the gut in July 4th. Nobody warned me  sufficiently. 😩
  2. Why do people find shit to complain about when they feel nervous, awkward or expect you to feel the same and concur? All ah we standing up in the hot sun. IIIIIIIIII doh feel like chatting about how hot the sun is…… 😐
  3. That anxiety again. I hope never to feel like that ever again. Even though I have two more to go. But by that time I think the novelty would disappear.
  4. Son-son did not pass for his first choice which reflected on his face in a way that only his mother would observe however, he was super stoked as he got placed in his second choice, a very good school where FIVE of his closest friends were also placed. Can’t complain about that.

ON FORM ONE REGISTRATION

  1. De journeyyyyyyyy now start
  2. I was so happy to observe that Form Six students were leading the programme for registration. I loved the culture of the school already.
  3. So I had to take out a five year insurance because my son wanted to do an extra-curricular sport activity. First I’d heard of it but better safe than sorry right? Plus it was only $100.
  4. Government issued textbooks were piled on but only when I got home did I notice the atrocious state of  one of the books. Moral: Take your time even though you feel overwhelmed.
  5. Secondary school is gonna be sweet.

ON MAM’ZELLE’S FIRST COMMUNION DAY

  1. The first communion ceremony, in spite of its great importance to any young Catholic girl, is also largely a pre-cursor to how you may envision your daughter on her wedding day. 20170630_0908351
  2. Mam’zelle looked really proud and big girl happy. I, on the other hand, stared into space……. 😭
  3. There’s a big difference between a boy’s and a girl’s first communion day. The difference lies in how extra parents are regarding how the child looks. (See 1. above).  With the girls I noticed more necks craning, eyes staring and eyebrows raising.
  4. I didn’t think that the girls actually ‘got’ what the rite was about, even though they got the basics. But like most of us who passed through it, eventually they will.

ON CONDUCTING AND MARKING END OF TERM EXAMS

  1. Why did we have end of term exams?
  2. The stress to create the perfect paper in the third term which would adequately cover what students did with a pinch of first and second term, was entirely too much.
  3. The stress to mark these papers also applies. Particularly when you KNOW you almost literally bled for your students and then you are faced with… 20170627_124852(The sad thing is that this was a national test that they got weeks earlier and I TOLD them that they would get a repeat of it for their exams rather than subject them to a new exam….so……sigh……..)
  4. People tend to say that the teacher influences the student. I wonder if they know that the reverse is also true? And not always in a positive light. Frustration is real. This term was bad. My nonchalance set in quick. I’m at pains to apologise.
  5. People also tend to say that teachers are lucky that the get vacations. I wonder if they know that most of us deem this much needed recovery period? Like post-trauma…. Salute to all of you who finished on a high note though! 👏

ON BOYO TURNING ONE

  1. Turning one year old is an important milestone!! This milestone however was not celebrated by anything resembling a party. Cake, ice cream, snacks only if you want.  I held firm to this with all my gremlinz. They. Will. Not. Remember. A. Thing. Let me underwhelm in peace.
  2. Smash cakes however are essential. Icing is awesome.
  3. My Boyo turned 1 a looooong time ago. We plebs are simply now catching up. 20133683_10154400439936706_179359571_o
  4. (Stare into space……. 😭)
  5. All babies of this generation are being led into world domination by Asahd Khaled, Beyonce’s twins and the genius soon to depart from Serena Williams. I’m noticing that my Boyo along with his peers are operating on an entirely different level. Look out 😐

ON MOVING

  1. And I maintain….it is only when you are moving that you realize HOW MUCH SHIT you own!!!!! AND MOST OF IT UNNECESSARY!!!
  2. A van is an important vehicle to own. Money saving tip yo. 💰💸
  3. Despite the general consensus in Trinidad, some landlords are really nice, I was grateful to score one.
  4. You can be attached to material things and you can’t help it. I was really sad to leave my home but the life beat goes on.
  5. If you suffer with slight OCD like me, ensure that you know EXACTLY where everything has to go. Chaos is no friend to us.
  6. Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.

ON DEATH

  1. When it happens particularly when it’s some degrees of separation away, I always retreat into myself examine my life, my purpose, think about my gremz. It’s a rollercoaster of hope and depression. There is some element of strength that I still need.
  2. Death has no respect for protocol. My husband told me that and it has stuck with me since. It’s whoever, whenever, deal with it. This is the hardest thing to stomach.
  3. Live your life and make those memories. This is what got me through the rough times and I imagine would continue to.

 

So the holidays are upon me. It will be filled with exercise, camp, activities, road trips, swimming, mall runs, the usual. I’m going to try to be gremlin-centred but try not to kill out myself in the process and of course post a couple of updates!

Bless up

TMIDM

Have merSEA!

Well my Son-son is 11, in standard five in primary school and about to write the big Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam this Thursday. According to Trini culture and lore, this is the most important exam of a student’s life, destined to make you or break you depending on which secondary school you are headed when the results come in. Parents cry, teachers lose hair and the children drill mathematical formulae, grammatical exercises and seemingly endless compositions up until the dreaded day that they aim to get their first choice out of four. Cue ominous voice:

may_the_fourth_be_with_you_by_themooken-da1apux

http://themooken.deviantart.com/art/May-the-fourth-be-with-you-606841449

Knowing that he is prone to anxiety, I laid all the pressure on Son-son on standard four and eased off the valve considerably. As the date draws near, I think I am more anxious than he is. However my anxiety stems from the fact that I am completely FED UP! of the preparation for the exam. I’m so thankful that his teacher is so meticulous, another parent told me some time ago that he has a ‘system’ to churn out boys to perform at the SEA exam. But at this point if I see YET ANOTHER quasi difficult poem, I will scream. I think a couple of nights ago was the last straw.  He came and said he read the poem and didn’t understand it. So I took a look. This is a poem called Children’s Song by R.S. Thomas which he had to read and answer about ten questions:

We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.
 
Ronald Stuart Thomas
Dafuq is subterfuge??? ‘Remoter heaven’??? My poor child!
I mean honestly, I get the gist of the poem, but I think it’s a bit much for an 11 year old to find extra deep metaphorical meaning in a high stakes exam. I understand that the poem is usually the difficult part of the exam but have mercy, this or any poem like it reads like stress! The questions that followed were even worse.
So these last few days I haven’t been harping on him at all partly because I think he’s reached his zenith and partly because again…me…fed up…. He had practice tests for the past two Saturdays and beyond that I gave him a free pass to the TV and the games on his tab. Of course everything was done in moderation so he also had to clean inside my car and do his regular chores as well. I don’t want this SEA pressure to fold him in even before the exam.
Thursday morning I plan to wake him up, act as normally as possible and not make a big deal about it. On our way there, he may get a Bruno Mars karaoke session, lame jokes in the car and I’ll kick him out with a hug and a ‘good luck dude’! If I get the butterflies, they’re going to remain in stasis at the very least until he’s out of my sight. I hope I don’t wig out. This SEA can’t drown us both.
Bless up
TMIDM