‘A’ Levels – the halfway point is a balancing act

Our home is perched upon a tightrope of existence, stretched between exams. Behind is education and ahead is an open future; my daughter and our lives are precariously balanced between her perception of failure and success. As I said in my last Blog, my daughter has worked. Consequently, expectations on her are high. Her life is a wobbling tread on the threads of holding it all together as she goes from paper to paper in a state of exhaustion and trepidation. It is no fun at all.


My daughter has just come in to my office, wide eyed with stress and bearing “Good news”. She has concluded that if she does not get the predicted ‘A’s for her first choice of university, her three ‘B’s ‘second choice’ is a good option. This is calming her. Three ‘B’s for goodness sake. That is so high and that is her ‘fallback’. Poor girl, no wonder she is constantly tired and hungry; anxiety is devouring her.




These evenings, over the kitchen table and through fading flowers and burnt down candles, she and I reflect nostalgically on the attitudes of her three older brothers towards their ‘A’ levels. Their ‘laisser faire’ approach had them waltzing in and out of exam rooms, making the most of their limited knowledge and careless to the consequences. It was not much pressure at all, not compared to my daughter’s state, anyway. Yet they wish they had been more like her and are tremendously supportive of her studying, even staying away from the family home so she can concentrate. But their absence has become too much; even at this time, my daughter misses her brothers’ comforting banter and wishes they were back in the fold again, spreading their boldness over our working days.


estelle dog


Having said all this, the countdown to freedom is nearly over. Days are passing and exams are sat. We drive to college in a state of untalking concern; she gets out of the car jerky and tense with facts spilling out of every pore. I can see she is field marshaling knowledge to the part of her brain from where she recalls. Two hours later she returns to the car wiped out and stretched. Not relaxed, just more tired. A good smothering of doggy love from our pet Labrador and we are on our way home again so she can repeat the exercise.


My daughter must do this, as generations before and after. I see she is learning an important lesson about self-management. This will matter more than her grades. I want her to get the results she wants, but other than that I do not mind. For my daughter has herself and like her brothers, her winning formula is not exam dependent. As her brothers evidence, to succeed is more complex than getting good results, or not. It is intrinsically linked to being true to yourself and finding an outlet in the world where you like your fit. Part of her is that she cares. In this she has already won.




The end of exams moves inexorably closer. Days are being crossed off the whiteboard work calendar. Then the global floodgates will come apart, my daughter will step through the gap to join her brothers, on an aeroplane going to the massive and fantastic Roskilde Festival. She will be travelling surrounded by them within three hours of exiting her last paper. It will be an emotional and sleep deprived collection of young adults making their own ways in the world. A great deal more entertaining than ‘A’ levels and a diversion until my daughter’s results.



To read Estelle’s previous blog for Mojomums click here…


Estelle Clarke is a single parent to three boys and a girl aged 23 to 18. She is an ex-City lawyer, writing full time.  Follow Estelle at @legalimportant

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