"Are We Doing the Right Thing?"
It has been an exhausting three months. This time has been characterized by the refrain, 'Are we doing the right thing?' Sending one of our children to a boarding school had not been part of the plan. I had imagined him coming home every day from secondary school, throwing his tie and blazer on the sofa and then moping around like any other adolescent while waiting to be nagged about his homework. I hadn't imagined that we would wait every evening for the most precious fifteen minutes of Skype. This daily ritual has one purpose: just to see that he is all right. There is no real need to catch up on the minutiae of the day; that can be done at the weekend. We simply require ocular proof that he is still alive, and perhaps to know that people - both pupils and staff - are treating him well. No other details are really necessary at this stage.
Nothing in life has prepared me for seeing the pixilated image of my son load up only for it to reveal that he is upset. Equally hard is hearing the crack in his voice as he tries to stop himself from crying. The reason is usually one of two things: tiredness; or a lack of time alone. We have brought our children up to handle boredom; to know what to do when life's emptier moments occur. There are times when we are responsible for initiating our own activity: sitting and drawing; finding a game to play; choosing a film to watch; writing a blog. They know that time can be filled in lots of different ways: productive, creative, indulgent, wasteful, helpful. Time is ours - to fill as be wish. So, a child who finds himself with no free time at all might just go mad. He might experience an uncontainable frustration at the lack of autonomy and freedom. In fact, it has taken him a couple of months to work out how to manufacture time in this regime that allows for none. He has two strategies. I can share one; but the other is an illicit method, and may not be shared for fear of him being discovered. However, I admire his tenacity. He breaks the law on a daily basis - such is his need for head-space. Legally he has decided to skip bedtime snacks. All the pupils go for a communal late night treat. He doesn't. It makes me laugh to think of him; a solitary figure clad in a dressing-gown reclining on a chaise, alone in the dormitory, perusing his book of choice. A young Oscar Wilde, or Sebastian Flyte, or Arthur Dent. The chaise is a figment of my imagination. The dressing-gown is not.
At the beginning, we hit a bump. After about four weeks we had nightly tears. The exact issue was hard to pin down. It took us a couple of weeks. But when we discovered what was really going on, we contacted the school. They handled the matter expertly and efficiently. And it was dealt with.
This second half term we have watched him settle down. He is actually beginning to thrive. He seems to be loving being part of the community. Now, we skype every day and we see our child beaming back at us full of enthusiasm for the richness of his school-life. The pixilated image appears and it seems that he is still alive - very much so - and people are being good to him. The answer, for now is that we did the right thing.