Half term is nearly here, and the last few weeks have passed by quickly. Routine seems to have accelerated time, and this somewhat unnatural boarding school procedure is developing into a bit of a habit. One of the reasons that it has gone by so quickly is the ease with which he now returns to school on a Monday - certainly when compared with the emotional effort it took at the beginning of term. He strolls into school on Monday mornings apparently without a care in the world, and his mood remains upbeat for the whole of the car journey. Owing to the bank holidays, he now has had a couple of weeks which consist of only four and a half school days rather than five and a half school. This makes a huge difference. The other terms seem to have dragged on endlessly; this summer term is skipping by with a lightness in its step. The dread and drudgery of the winter term is a distant memory. Those Monday mornings of setting off in the dark on the long solemn drive seem to have existed in a parallel universe. We were men condemned, hoping our short drive would not reach its inevitable end. These days the car journey is full of care-free chatter. We are no longer in a state of shock.
It is not that life at school has got easier: the days are still long; he still only gets 45 minutes to himself all day; the ballet has become more demanding now that the expectations on them are higher; he still spends his days away from the support of his family. Nor has the pain become dulled. I am still aware of his absence everyday, and there are times when I wish that a child at boarding school was an just an idea or a suggestion rather than a very present reality. I painfully notice the empty chair at the dinner table. I still miss him, and I imagine that he still misses us, sometimes.
The big difference that the summer term offers that none of the other terms afford is a clear overview. This term presents us with five weeks - some shorter than normal - followed by a week off, and then five more weeks culminating in a couple of big performances. The end is in sight and getting there is manageable. This seems like the time for a horse-racing image: we have nearly reached the final furlong, and the last reserves of energy may now be used up in the sprint to the finish.
We have promised him two summer months of being 'normal' and only as much reminding of the ballet world as he feel he can deal with. Next academic year will be different. He will be able to manage his expectations with the benefit of hindsight - one week at a time, and the new year sevens will have arrived; he will no longer be the youngest child in the school. We'll all cope with the situation differently.