A Tale of Two Brothers

I think it’s pretty much safe to say that Sam hates me right now. That gap is where his X-box used to be.

While he was out wasting three hours of his life on some Avengers movie, I was stealing his vital source of entertainment, communication, escapism. Over the last few months, I’ve been torn vis-à-vis his GCSE revision. Torn between trusting him and tutoring him. Trusting him to do the right thing. Trusting him to finally appreciate how important these exams are and how he needs to manage his time appropriately. Or should I tutor him? Take myself off on a Busman’s holiday to the text book-laden table in the conservatory. Sit down with him every evening, revision timetable at the ready, post it notes and highlighters in plentiful supply, tasks waiting to be completed. Watching over him like some sort of prison officer at visiting time.

Up until yesterday, I was obviously trusting him too much. But then I snapped. I watched him attempt to tackle a practice paper for Computer Science and it was obvious he didn’t have a clue. And it wasn’t his fault of course. It’s everyone else’s; the teacher, the authors of the study guide, the writers of the subject specification, Charles Babbage for inventing bloody computers in the first place. And while this scene was unfolding before me, I glanced at his brother in the kitchen, perched at the counter, copying work from his biology text book into his revision exercise book. He is only in Year 9. No one has asked him to do this. This is his idea. Joel is not a natural academic. As an August baby, he’s had to catch up with everything and he’s slowly getting there, except with his height!! Then, even once something clicks in his unique brain, (he once told his Reception teaching assistant that his brain was a little bit different to everyone else’s!) it all unravels in the face of a test or an exam. He goes to pieces and can never demonstrate what he knows.

Sam, on the other hand, took to academia easily. I remember how he would choose to spend mornings regurgitating phonics or begging me to write down calculations for him to do, while his brother ran round the living room with pants round his ankles or on his head, still unable to string 4 words together at the age of 3.

But something happened to Sam. The boy, who was keen to do the highest Maths paper in his SATs in Year 6, lost his way. Was it his choice of secondary school? The guilt I feel for sending to him to my old school which has been a victim of a corrupt academy sponsor comes in waves, sometimes big, sometimes small. He’s had some supportive teachers and made fantastic memories from foreign trips, exactly like I did whilst at the school. But I also had windows which opened, a heating system which worked, text books specific to the subject, photocopies galore and teachers who weren’t having their soul sucked out of them by Bright Tribe death eaters.

Or was it the inevitable absorption of technology into his teenage life? The ZX Spectrum 48 was hardly a distraction for me, no matter how much I loved Manic Miner or Horace and the Spiders! At least I know Sam does have emotions (he stopped smiling at me years ago!) as he laughs at friends online or beats the floor in frustration because some virtual football player has illegally tackled him. I just wish he would show this level of commitment to his studies.

Or is it just who he is? As much as I want to, I can’t make him be like me; studious, passionate, ambitious. And, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s Joel who is like me with his desire for colour coded timetables and every piece of stationery he can possibly amass. Maybe I should let Sam be who he is. He loves Maths, which is a completely alien concept to me, and wants to base his future career around this. But every time I decide to let him do it his way, there’s a niggling thought in the back of my mind which drags me back to the present moment, like one of Dickens’ ghosts has taken hold of my conscience, which then flings me into the future, to results day, as he stands opening his envelope. And, on scanning the information, I just want to see him display some kind of positive emotion in my presence, as rare as that is in my company, and be happy in the knowledge that he’d done everything he could to obtain those numbers before him. Surely my job is to help him succeed?

So he’ll be without it for six weeks and I’m under no illusion that during his period, his resentment for me with deepen everyday. But I’m hoping that, on August 22nd, as he looks at his exams grades, he might manage a smile and perhaps remember to love me again.

#ataleoftwobrothers #gcses2019 #joysofmotherhood

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