In the last blog I wrote about how we have a new awareness of timetables, routine and their observance. Here is some more:
The thing about such a specialist school is that they have got such a lot of ground to cover. I imagine this is similar for any school which is delivering a full academic programme in addition to whichever specialism: drama, football, music, or ballet. The consequence is that our son's routine is rigid. There is no time for breaks, or free time, or deviation from the pre-ordained timetable. This is difficult for us; for eleven years we adopted the most liberal of parenting styles. Some might say that we have not only taught our children to question, but perhaps encouraged them to rebel. Now, one of our children finds himself in the most strict of regimes. I imagine that he would find more room to manoeuvre as a military cadet than he does at a specialist ballet school. The only flexibility he experiences is literal rather than figurative. We have firmly believed that our children must learn to manage their own time: knowing how to react to boredom is one of life's most essential skills. As I mentioned in the first blog, he has found his own way of dealing with this lack of free time. I know little about physics; but I think that it is 'Hook's Law' which describes reshaping a spring by seeing how far it will stretch out of shape. In terms of shaping his day to maximise his free time, our son has found the maximum point to which the spring will stretch - it is not very far. He points out to us at every available opportunity that for a full twelve hours a day his time is allotted. This stretches to thirteen hours if you include getting dressed and breakfast.
We have found a counter-intuitive way of combatting the rigidity of his school day. We are fighting routine with routine - an almost homeopathic approach. We skype everyday at precisely the same time. He gets picked up at the weekend at exactly the same time, and we leave on a Monday to return him to the regiment at exactly the same time in order to beat the traffic. We spend the same amount of time sitting in the cafe on a Monday morning waiting for the time for the start of the school day, and we always order the same drinks.
Last term, in the final week of school, there were alterations to this routine. Christmas events seem be the only thing robust enough to make the ballet routine yield. Our son found this unsettling. He was clearly stressed by having to text us his skype time in advance, or being allowed to sleep in following a late night, or a Christmas Party making the evening meal take place forty minutes later than usual. Our beautiful free spirited iconoclastic child has undergone a transformation. He has become a creature of habit.
My own life has adopted an immutable routine. I wait at the same place at the same time at the beginning of the weekend with the same sandwiches packed in my bag; I get up at the same time every Monday in order to secure our 6.15am departure; I get the same number of stamps on my loyalty card in the cafe; I drive home listening to the same podcast each week - This American Life; and in three months I have only missed one skype session - even managing to keep the appointment when working overseas. I always pop a card in the post on a Tuesday. My life has never been so regulated or structured. It runs like clockwork.
Our family life finally has a routine which must be adhered to at all costs. This parallel structure to the ballet day provides our son with security - a comfort blanket. We have become a different type of parent, and he knows that parental love and primal nurture also fit into a schedule.