Facing the realities of parental pressure.
“Mama, I got an 85 for my maths exam!” The little girl approached her mother, her pudgy fingers gripping the maths paper with a big and red ‘A’ scribbled on it. A wide and toothy grin stretched onto Arina’s face as she ran up to her mother who was currently watching tv in the living room. The woman with greying hair barely looked at the exam paper, eyes still focused on the drama channelled on the screen in front of her and said, “Congratulations, dear, but who got the highest score in your class? Why couldn’t you get a 100? Should I sign you up for maths tuition?” Her mother struck her with question after question, hoping to gain a legit excuse for her ‘bad’ result.
To say that the little girl was shocked was an understatement, her mother had always shown this type of reaction every time she told her mother about her results. Even though she receives the same reaction, a tiny voice in her head kept on telling her that her mother would show a better reaction than the ones she portrayed to her these past few years. Perhaps maybe a “You’re doing good, sweetie,” or a “I’m so proud of you.” Her immature mind couldn’t fathom the feeling she got after the conversation she had with her mom but if she could describe it in one word, it would be ‘bad’.
Don’t get her wrong, Arina loved her mother. She would always give her whatever she wanted, she gave her everything she needed, from love and affection to every single Barbie toy she could get her hands on. It’s just that when this kind of conversation came into her memory, she realized that her mother wasn’t all that perfect when it comes to parenting. Maybe it’s the way she was raised, maybe it was her dream to be raised in a family that Arina had the luxury of now but she would always entrust this feeling of guilt into her when she couldn’t obtain the results her mother was expecting her to get.
Fast forward to a few years later, Arina stared in fear at the ‘B’ written on her Additional Mathematics paper, mind running wild with how her mother was going to react. She sat down beside her friend, Irene, her wide eyes still staring blankly at the paper in front of her, foolishly hoping that she could change the grade if she bore holes into the poor paper. “What did you get?” Irine asked her, genuine curiosity tinted in her question. Arina muttered out a meek ‘B’ before chucking the paper into her bag, mentally deciding to not let out the news to her mother, she just couldn’t face her mother’s wrath today. “Woaa, that’s so good, I barely passed but at least I did better than my last exam, heh,” Irine chuckled as she nervously scratched the back of her head.
The pang of jealousy hit Arina hard at how nonchalant her friend was. “Aren’t your parents gonna get angry at you?”
“I do get the occasional disappointed look but my mom always says that as long I keep on going and work hard for it, then that’s enough to make her happy, even if I fail. Though she would prefer if I didn’t fail at Addmaths again,” Irene let out a hearty laugh when she recalled the time she told her mom she failed her first Add Maths exam, hoping to lift up the mood of her friend who had a downcast expression written on her face.
Jealousy, regret, guilt, fearful and anger were all mashed into one and plunged into the depths of her mind. Jealousy, as she wanted her mom to say that to her. Regret for the thought that she could have studied harder and stayed up later to do exercises. Guilt for her own ability to only achieve such a low grade and finally, anger at how different her mother is from Irene’s mother.
“That’s so nice of your mom, God knows when my own mother will say those kinds of words to me,” she sighed out a heavy breath, holding her hands together in hopes of stopping the shivering. Either from fear or sadness or perhaps both, she herself couldn’t figure it out. The whole school day goes by as a blur, the thought of her mother finding out her marks nailed into the back of her head and the anxiety of receiving her mom’s reaction eating her up.
It was so stupid, she’s making a big fuss over such an measly matter, it was just her Add Maths mark, why is she getting so stressed about it? It would not even affect her future, right? Why is she being so over dramatic about it? She could have just told her mom today and get it over with faster. Nothing for her to be restless about. One part of her was telling her to tell the result today and receive the disappointed look and longer duration of Add Maths tuition so she can mentally deal with it faster. However, the other side was screaming at her to not do it, to let her enjoy her freedom longer, to let her mother be happy with her for a few more days, to not disappoint her mother today, to delay it further. And lastly, another part was curious on the reason she is making it into such a big matter.
Arina wished she could’ve known the reason herself.
Once she reached home, she went straight to her room, locking herself up. Her elder sister knocked on her door, telling her to have lunch after she’s done freshening up. Arina let out a ‘Okay sis!’ before falling onto her bed, wanting to scream into the sheets. She was so afraid, she didn’t want to face her mom, anything, anything, to avoid telling her mum about her results. She glanced at the clock, 1 more hour before her mom gets back from work. Arina was basically raking her head to find ideas on how to avoid her mother.
“What did you get for Add Maths?” Her mother’s loud yet calm voice sounded throughout the dining room. They were currently having dinner, chatting about their day. It was going well for Arina, before her mother voiced out her question. Curse her mother’s ability to know her school timetable, she must’ve seen that she had Add Maths period for today. Arina went quiet, her sister who was the loud one of the family stopped talking and proceeded to wait for her answer too. “Ahh, I bet my little sis got an A, she’s so smart,” Her sister ruffled her hair lovingly.
“I got a 67.” She muttered softly. “Arina, speak up, you know I can’t understand when you mutter,” her mother’s stern voice rang. “67,” she repeated, looking down at her now empty plate.
The silence was deafening, a small pin dropping could be heard loud and clear.
“What?! How can you get such a low mark? I’ve been sending you to tuition every single week, is 67 the best you can do? How much did that smart kid—what’s his name, Alex— get? I bet he got an A+. He doesn’t even go to tuition and he can manage an A+. I fetch and send you to tuition every single week, waste thousands on your tuition fees every month and all you can get is a 67?”
Her mother’s words slit through her heart. This was why. The disappointment, the hurtful words, the dissatisfied face upon her mother’s face, the mention of the smart kid from her class. This was exactly why she refused to tell her mother, exactly why she stressed over it, exactly why she made such a big fuss over it.
Arina accepted her mother’s words with a heavy heart. There wasn’t anything that she could do, her mother’s words were true. She tried her best but too bad it wasn’t enough. She collected her plate after her mother was done talking, slowly making her way into her room and locking herself up in her room for the second time that day.
‘I really am useless, huh? All I’m good at is wasting my parents’ money. I sleep up late, I go to tuition every single week and it’s still not enough. If I can’t even get a decent grade on Add Maths, how am I going to become a doctor?’ Those similar words rang through her mind that night, tears cascading down her cheeks at how pathetic she felt. That night, she slept with her mind running wild and tear-stained cheeks.
Parental pressure is something that all of us could relate to. It can be hard to deal with sometimes and it’s absolutely not an ideal that we should normalise as if not handled well, it can result in serious mental health problems for the child. Parents should be mindful of what they say when they’re angry as some words can really get to their child. They should know how to differentiate the line between caring and caring too much. Based on an article, the positive parenting keys are introspection, encouragement and interaction.
Introspection: Parents should review how their parenting skills are affecting their child. Are the interactions one sided or does the child have a right to disagree with their opinions? An ideal parent should be inspiring and understanding toward their child.
Encouragement: No matter how bad the child is doing, parents should never degrade their child and instead, encourage them to do better, strive for better results. This could affect their child in a positive light in the long run as they will develop confidence and determination when they grow up.
Interaction: The most effective way to monitor your children without pressuring them is by communicating with them daily, spending time with them by either chatting or watching tv together, playing family games, basically anything that can create a fun and stress-free atmosphere in the house. By doing these, the child would be more open and less pressured to share on how they are doing with their parents and build a loving and strong bond between each family member.
By Nur Alia Abdul Aziz, FS120