We've got two lots of exams in the house this year - our 18-year-old is doing A levels and our 16-year-old GCSEs. That means there's a lot of 'revising' going on. I don't mean to suggest that they aren't working. Far from it. My son is talking to himself in German and my daughter keeps trying to tell me about the properties of electrons while I'm loading the dishwasher. But I'm a bit fed up with the way that 'revising' has turned into a kind of sick note that gets you out of anything you don't want to do.
'Are you busy?' I say to my son, who's sitting at the kitchen table. It's noon, he's just finished a leisurely breakfast, and he's reading the TV guide in the paper.
'Why?' he says, suspiciously.
'I just wondered if you could put the rubbish out,' I say.
He looks pained. 'I'm revising,' he says.
Yesterday, I gathered up all the dirty coffee cups and crumb-laden plates in my daughter's room while she was sitting cross-legged on the bed checking Facebook on her laptop.
'I'm going to put on a load of washing,' I said, standing in the doorway laden with crockery like a clearance sale in John Lewis.
'Hmm?' she said, not looking up.
'I just wondered,' I said, looking rather hopelessly at the muddle of socks, tights, T-shirts and dresses strewn across the floor, 'whether you could sort out what needs to be washed.'
Her head shot up. 'But I'm revising!' she said.
If your teenager is 'revising', he or she can't unpack the shopping, ring Aunt Susanne to thank her for the generous Christmas present, get a photo taken at the corner shop for a bus pass, put out the recycling or feed the cat. At the end of a meal when they've sat around the table for a good half hour, winding each other up and trying to cap each other's witticisms, 'revising' means your teenagers take the sudden collective decision to rush from the kitchen rather than risk exam failure by washing the grill pan.
'Thank goodness,' I say to my son, 'that this will all be over in a few weeks.'
He frowns. 'That's only the mocks,' he says.
Of course. Silly me. They'll be 'revising' until June.
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