Matric: the hardest M of all


There are many trying Ms in the life of a woman. Menstruation. Men (if you go that route). Marriage. Motherhood. Maternity wear. Menopause. But the hardest of them all is Matric. 

Not your own, although heaven knows it certainly isn’t always that much fun. Especially if, like me, you didn’t have a date for the dance and your home ec teacher had to corral one of her kids’ friends and he pitches up in a purple suit and a bad sulk… But enough about that. 

If you have children, their matric year trumps all the Ms. It starts happily enough, of course. They’re the kings and queens of the high school castle, sitting on chairs instead of the floor during assembly, wearing special Class of… jerseys, dreaming of freedom and the future, relishing the fact they’ll soon be old enough to drink legally and present their real IDs at club doors… 

But the honeymoon is soon over. And in its place comes stress, anxiety, mood swings to make puberty look like a doddle, alarming appetite fluctuations and enough drama to rival the most complex Kardashian (if there is such a thing).

Many schools warn you of what lies ahead. They call special meetings at the beginning of the matric year and tell you that your daughter will hate you by the time the mock exams roll around, and really hate you by finals. There were things about boys too – like they’ll stop shaving and sulk and stuff – but I glazed over because I only have girls. 

And boy, were they right. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’ll always get it wrong. A lovingly made snack delivered at midnight while your matriculant puts the finishing touches to an art prac? Accepted with a growl. A soft tap at the door to announce it’s time to leave for an exam? Cue explosion. A timid suggestion they join the rest of the family at the dinner table? Eruption of eye-rolling.

So you do what you think they want: give them space and leave them alone. But that doesn’t work either. “You don’t care about me!” they’ll rant. “I’m writing the most important exams of my life – the least you could do is ask me if I need anything!”

See? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But don’t worry, anxious parents. Like labour, this too shall pass. 

Once the pen is placed down after the last exam, your child will be transformed. They’ll also be gone, off to one of the rages around the country where the newly freed frolic in the sun and do things we’d rather not know about. And when they return, they will be normal again. Until January rolls round and the results loom large… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Here then, in a nutshell, is what you need to survive the Big M: patience, a thick skin, a sense of humour and adult support. And if all else fails, get wine. 

Do you have any advice for teens who are taking on matric this year? Share your words of wisdom by emailing and we may publish your story. Should you wish to remain anonymous, please let us know.

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