A luxury afforded
Many schools - the ballet school included - have delayed returning by a week following the Easter break. The five-year old is taking this very badly. We struggle to get her to school in the morning when she knows that her brother has another day off. I sympathise. I decided to make only a few work commitments for this week, so that we would have the rare luxury of time spent together. I acknowledge that this is somewhat indulgent, but it was a relatively straight-forward thing to do; I simply scheduled everything for the following week. From then on, I'm going to be busy.
The weather has erratically decided to skip spring and jump straight to summer, so I am now congratulating myself at having a week free of any commitments. I am basking.
This week is an attempt to bank up time. From next week, contact with our son will again be restricted to a 15 minute daily Skype conversation, and only a day and a half at the weekends, so it makes sense to spend some time with him now ... while we can. We are mixing up this time with the ordinary and the hedonistic - both that are scarce during term time. I am tempted to feel guilty; this is a luxury that I can hardly afford. However, I have made a commitment, and I am going to follow this through.
On the first day of this sunny extra week, we draw the curtains and watch Guardians of the Galaxy: gags and action; or inter-textuality and irony. We laugh a lot. Ballet is a universe away. On another day we eat go out for lunch - Indian Food. On the final day, we shop for Lego; he's been sitting on some Christmas money for a few months. These are all activities that would normally not be possible or pleasurable, but this week we are exploiting the five year old's obligatory attendance at school. We are always back in time to pick her up, and the two of them run around in one of our local playgrounds with me and the dog circling the perimeter fence - the dog whining and wondering why she can't join them on the climbing frame. Over the holidays, our son has read whatever he wants to read, and watched whatever has appealed to him. He has met up with friends from his old primary school. We've visited family and even managed to cram in a bit of a holiday - a weekend of windy beaches and remote woods. This extra week is the proverbial icing on a figurative cake - or an extra curtain-call if we shift to a ballet image.
We also work hard to get everything ready. He repacks all the bags himself, and in doing so unearths a whole load of laundry that wasn't located two weeks ago when, with a self-congratulatory smirk, I thought I had finished all the washing on the first day of the holiday. So, in this last week, ballet shoes have been sewn, hair-cuts achieved, shirts have been ironed, and ballet socks counted. This has been a team effort, and we have everything finished easily by early on the final Sunday morning. There will be no last minute panic. We have picked at the preparation consistently over the week, and not let any of it eclipse a single day of fun. This is a new and mindful approach to the dreaded and tedious task which announces his return to term-time absence. We seem to be learning. We seem - collectively - to be growing up.
A time will come when, for him, the compensation for a term at boarding school does not involve a week of activities with his parents for company. Adolescence will bring its necessary detachment and awkwardness. And when he no longer wants to do things with us, that will be fine. I'll turn my attention to something else. But for now, this feels right.