Back to Square One?
It is the first week of term, and it feels like we are all back at the beginning. The ground that we had covered has been rescinded, and the knowledge and experience that we gained is forgotten. We are missing him. He is missing us.
Monday morning was horrible. The feelings of misery started in the car and continued during our ritual traffic-beating cup of tea in the café between 7am and 7.45am. As a father I felt useless. As a human-being I felt wretched. At that point in time - and my perspective has changed a little since - this was not what I wanted. I want to feel like someone's dad all the time - not just for a fifteen minute Skype call, and for the duration of using online banking to transfer the fees. I wanted Christmas to come back and to have a complete family around me. The first couple of Skype sessions didn't help. He was being brave, but I could sense the stress in the speed of his speech and there was an his face seemed almost inanimate - hardly daring to move. He gave us full details of the day he has lived, but I would rather these stories were not being related through the screens of two iPads.
It is in that moment of time that I feel I have failed. I think that the Freudians refer to it as 'enmeshed families'. Families who are over-involved in each other's lives; who are unable to make a distinction between themselves. The values and experiences of one are the values and experiences of all. These are the families who exercise the most conditional of loves and resemble the most controlling of cults. Is this us? Our daughter, incidentally, is not that keen on school. Further evidence for my general parental crap-ness. What sort of children have we brought up?
I would listen to these thoughts more attentively if the children concerned were not eleven and five. My job is to keep them safe: listen to their anxieties; offer reassurance; become involved with their worries. The plan is to provide them with enough security that they eventually want to leave. We support them so that they grow strong. Our family is the broad base at the stem of the wine glass. It might wobble, but it won't fall over. That is the theory, anyway. I had imagined that we would be such great parents that our success would be our children wanting to leave, but not at five and eleven. I had imagined this process developing to its natural conclusion at ... twenty-nine and thirty-five! That is when I had anticipated we would all be ready for some healthy, well-balanced separation. A conscious uncoupling.
The week improved. After a couple of days we once again had a smiling child beaming through: fulfilled, excited and full of joy. The ground we had gained last term not rescinded entirely; it was just a high-tide for the beginning of term obscuring the territory we had found. Despite distance, the invisible strand connecting our family's hearts once again feels robust.
In Monday's blog, I'll be talking about a 'game-changer' this term, and also pondering some very important matters ... classical ballet.