From A to B
It's like I've gone from one extreme to another. This announcement was made by our son over dinner recently. It is an accurate observation, and it is true for all of us. After months of chaos - of feeling that we, as a family, were somehow completely lost armed only with a malfunctioning GPS - we are now slowly getting used to the new landscape.
We used to say goodbye to him at the beginning of the week and then we would next see him again on a Saturday morning. Now he is with us during the whole week, and we have all needed time to adjust. I've written a great deal about what it is like to reluctantly send your child to boarding school - now I can write about what it is like when they return home. There are the obvious changes - the amount of food that is eaten; the frequency of laundry that is done; the number of sibling arguments; a messier house. Now, I always seem to be loading or unloading either the dishwasher or the washing machine. Having him around is extremely time consuming. Perhaps, I'm beginning to realise that boarding school wasn't such a bad idea after all.
That flippant comment sits awkwardly on the page: Boarding school was a terrible idea.
I often felt that ballet school meant giving him up to a strange type of incarceration. He was stuck within the confines of the school grounds, and he often didn't have the time and space to even make phone calls. Every second of his day had an allotted activity. I wrote at the time how I was worried about him not developing a healthy relationship to boredom. Now he is back in his own environment and at the same he enjoys a new sense of freedom. He travels around independently, getting himself to ballet classes, or around to friends' houses. His time management skills have been acquired with a hastened necessity. I'm impressed, not only by how well he is coping with this autonomy, but also by how much he seems to be enjoying it.
We now know that he frequently also felt a lack of nurture at the school. The children bond through common adversity: they survive in a restless hyper-vigilant state; knowing that criticism, challenges, cruelty may well arise soon; uncertain of where it might come from. Keeping themselves protected while in turn consoling their friends is the way the Ballet School pendulum swings. This restlessness used to still be alive in his body when he returned at the weekend - a subdued anxiety; his exhausted nervous system waiting to go back on red alert. Now, we are always on tap to provide reassurance and honesty. He is no longer surrounded by people who are essentially strangers, and instead he hopefully feels that he once again has the support of family life. His pendulum can gently rock, rather than dramatically swing. Now that the difficult events of his departure are fading, a new person is emerging: focused, resolute and full of fun again. Only now do we understand the struggle he was enduring at the time. Now he often expresses his joy of life and the fun is again present. Now, we have realised that it had all but disappeared over the last few years. His confidence is returning, and in more ways than one, our son is back.
Some habits have returned like old friends. While he generally makes his own way to classes, there is one class that is difficult to reach on public transport. So, I am back to being the taxi driver. It feels familiar - waiting for him to come out while all the other dancers come and go. I enjoy being back here - sitting in a car, listening to the radio, expecting him to emerge. I too feel like I have come home.
He has come a very long way in a very short time. The whole family has. The space between point A and point B was tempestuous and unstable - it was stressful beyond belief. But now that we have moved from one extreme to another, for all of us, it feels really really good.
There are going to be some changes and innovations to the blog. Please connect via Facebook and or Twitter to keep in touch. Ballet Dad is now tweeting as well as blogging - just not at the same time.