It’s finally here- camp week at school. From the time the email announcing the venue and details arrived from school, there has been a non-stop volley of questions, instructions, lists and what not from my little one. We have prepared our camping name labels , neatly labelled every item from torch to toothpaste, used our Iron on labels on everything from socks to raincoat. From shoe labels to bag tags, we have seen through the entire value pack of labels such that even our pet dog’s collar has a slim label stuck on it!!! We have packed and unpacked and packed again numerous times, out of excitement. And then the panic messages from the moms on the grade WhatsApp group start!!

I get it. For many parents, sending kids away over night or for 3 nights is a big step. Most of the time the kids are giddy with excitement at the prospect but sometimes a parents anxiety passes easily to a child and makes them nervous being away. But after 7-8 years of sending both the boys away every year, here’s what I learnt.

1. The biggest take-away from going camping is the sense of independence the kids learn. No mommy or Didi to pick up dirty socks or fold away the night suit. They learn to do things for themselves and actually enjoy being able to do simple tasks.
2. They often get over their fear of the dark. First they have physically exhausting days that by the time they hit bed, they are asleep in minutes. And secondly the sleepover with friends is so exciting, everyone puts on a brave front for the other of not being afraid and eventually they come to realise there really is nothing to fear.
3. They learn the joys of train and bus travel. In the privileged and increasingly alienated urban lives we lead, the joys of night journey by train, antakshiri in the bus – left aisle vs right aisle, are simply not possible unless you are travelling in a group like for school camp.
4. Sibling affection becomes evident. While they fight non-stop when together, when they go away on camp in separate schedules, my one son can’t stop talking about the other. My older one will constantly wonder aloud what the younger one must be doing and will do something small like tidy his book shelf up or neatly arrange some scattered toys. The younger one will refuse to go for s special meal or movie with us that he doesn’t want the older one to miss out on. As a parent, I find that endearing and heartening and even if they don’t admit it, they miss each other tremendously.
5. It’s okay that they don’t bathe for 2-3 days. I’ve had the boys come home from various trips with nightsuits untouched- they slept in what they were wearing all day, changed without bathing, lived in one pair of track pants. Whatever the case maybe, they come back so full of stories, experiences and incidents that dirty knees and grubby faces are almost like battle scars to be proudly proclaimed.

Pack the kids off and take a breather. They will be fine. Enjoy the kids free time you have been gifted. Go on that dinner date with your spouse. Catch up on movies with girlfriends. Be ready to receive your kids in 2-3 days time looking a little scruffy and just a little bit older and maturer.

It’s that time of the year when you are not sure whether it’s your child who is preparing for exams or you are going through school again. All those nightmares you had as a child of sitting in the exam room and not remembering a thing have come back to haunt you again. What you learnt in school is definitely still there tucked away in some corner of your brain. It surfaces now and again….not to solve complicated algebra equations in a jiffy but rather in mundane daily chores like calculating where the sun will be the strongest in your balcony as you hang out the laundry (geography, geometry)! How much money to leave behind with the help for those multiple Amazon prime deliveries you ordered last night (mental math)….

But at exam time it is really all about calculating the square root of 35742, the difference between Subsistence farming and Intensive farming or what a Potometer is used for?

Helping your child prepare for exams is often a family exercise. You curtail your outings to be around for the child – morally and literally. Younger siblings are hushed into quieter activities. Entertaining at home comes to a stand still to avoid all distractions. You stop going for movies in solidarity towards your child.

Does it sometimes not feel enough? What more can you do? I remember my mom during my exam days. I was an easy child (as I keep reminding my mom and my own kids). I studied without being nagged, I set targets for myself daily, I paid attention during maths and accounting tuitions and I kept neat notes.

Still, I remember clearly my mom’s contributions during exam time.

  • She made sure sure all meals were light so I didn’t nod off to sleep on a belly full of rajma chawal or Biryani.
  • I got my daily dose of memory enhancing foods – almonds, fish, eggs, fruits.
  • She made sure I ate yogurt daily to keep my stomach healthy. Nothing worse than getting the runs due to stress or poor eating habits.
  • She made sure I slept minimum 8 hours. No point spending hours studying when you are ready to fall asleep on the exam paper.
  • Stationary items and other school supplies were always in double and labelled with my name stickers. No unnecessary panic in last minute trips to the stationary shops at odd hours or fighting with siblings over what’s mine and what’s yours!!
  • She called couple of times a day from work, checking up on me – not to breather down my neck but to check whether I had eaten, taken a break, showered, had milk! Subtle and not so subtle mothering that makes you feel loved and comforted.
  • Above all, she kept an air of calm at home. Striking a fine balance between giving me the sense of importance (which as a student you feel entitled to – what in life could be more important for anyone than YOUR exams you wonder at that age) and a sense of casualness which allowed to me to destress every now and then and stay focussed.
  • As my own children fall into the exam preparation routine at this time of the year, I find myself echoing my mother’s habits and appreciating all the little things she did that went a long way in helping me study.

What are your special routines during exam time for your kids? What is your secret mantra? Write in and tell us.