High Hopes for Half-term
The last five weeks have been gruelling. They seem to have lasted longer than the whole of the Christmas term. There are several reasons for this: the pupils have not had a weekend off, and have attended Saturday school every week; they have been preparing for the annual assessments; the pressure has built up in school and at home. Time as a family in the last few weeks has seemed rushed; we have all been getting used to a new rhythm; he used to come home on a Friday. Now the weekend begins on a Saturday afternoon. So, we find ourselves tripping joyously into half-term. Is it right to be focusing so intently on the holidays that we are wishing away large chunks of our lives?
I haven't booked any work in for the week - except for one conference call. During the last conference call I did at home, connecting people from UK, US, and Australia, the dog unexpectedly decided to bark. I denied that I could hear anything unusual on the line, and said it was probably an antipodean technical gremlin. This time that gremlin could sound like a dog, or either of the children - probably screeching about killing skellybuts on Minecraft.
I have learned my lesson, and with no work booked in, I have just gloriously lowered my expectations. I am not going to plan much; I'll just let events take their own course. I will not be arranging an itinerary of activities or ensuring that every hour of every day is accounted for. He spends his life packing and unpacking bags, so we will not be repeating this activity and carting him off to an airport. Like the hard-drive on an old computer, we'll all just defragment at home. Let's have the chance to catch up, watch movies, play games, go for walks, eat and chat. We will meander and drift lazily through the week. Perhaps, on one day, we will have lunch out. It will be a chance for him not to be in a dormitory, not to always be surrounded by other children, and not to have every second of his day timetabled. I imagine the siblings getting reacquainted and their banter echoing through the house; peals of laughter cascading down the stairs.
Then, as we hurtle towards this blissful week off, I catch myself. I'm walking the dog and the thought hits me - a sobering wet fish slap in the face. I'm being dishonest. I might not be planning a week of activity, but I am putting just as much pressure on all of us. In my head, I am imagining half-term to exist at the very pinnacle of my blue-sky-thinking. I see us as the Waltons, or the idyllic characters from a pastoral, healing and licking our wounds - caused by the excesses of ballet. We are reunited and have returned home for the simple life. We are the dirndl wearing, doh-a-deer singing Von Trapps fleeing formality, tradition and fascism - climbing every mountain. I have no evidence that this is anyone else's fantasy but my own. There are three others involved in this story, and the dog can also prove quite wilful. I am expecting us to instantly develop skills of communication and collaboration that we have probably never possessed. In my head, no-one is squabbling or arguing or getting cross because they were the one to unload the dishwasher ... again. I have forgotten how much time is taken in preparing three meals a day for a whole family - how much salad will be washed, pasta endlessly drained, and toast buttered. I have also forgotten the frustrations of Minecraft, and how hard it is finding activities to suit children who are six years apart in age. Fatally, I haven't asked anyone else what they want, or given them the chance to contribute to this vision. Perhaps, after five weeks intense classical ballet training, he will just want to spend the whole week sucked into YouTube videos - a headphone-wearing zombie pretending that he is just a normal non-communicative eleven-year-old. It is more than likely that our daughter will reject the back-catalogue of Miyazaki cartoons I have planned, because she just wants to watch Tracey Beaker.
Back to the drawing board, or not - as the case may be. I'll let you know.
To be continued ...