There is always a price to be paid. This is a lesson which is often not heeded no matter how many times we acknowledge that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I am, of course, not simply referring to the financial. Our son loves Ballet. When asked if there is anything he prefers to do, he resolutely replies that there isn't. In order to pursue this every day, he is has to go to boarding school and survive without the daily parental support that eleven year olds hopefully enjoy. As you know, I hardly worked last week, and we had an idyllic week in which we achieved a balance between activity and rest. I really enjoyed myself. I felt happy and fulfilled. Life was good. But we all knew what was lying ahead. A price would soon have to be paid.
But, something unexpected has happened. I was upset when I dropped him off on Monday morning, and there were a few tears as I drove back, but the stabbing pain was surprisingly absent. I would even say that I felt a degree of nostalgia for it. A familiar old friend was missing. Something was amiss, clearly.
This is the third term of his first year, and so the third time that I have now left him after a long holiday. I have also now dropped him off after a weekend nearly twenty times. The result of all this practice is that the image in my head has changed. The mental picture of abandoning him to the hardships of a Dickensian workhouse seems less vivid. The image is no longer in painfully sharp high-definition. It is not even that of a black and white television; it has pixilated as if processed with the computing power of a ZX Spectrum. It now feels as if I am taking him to his school: a place where he is now experiencing a sense of belonging. He is beginning to fit in, and this is image of a happiness at school is replacing the old images: queues for gruel, canes, gowns and mortarboards, weeping waifs and austere school masters - none of which are true. He is still missing from my daily life, and I would rather he were here with us; but the sore is no longer so inflamed, nor requiring my constant attention.
I feel a great deal less bereft. There are figures of speech that we use to describe being overwhelmed, and the all seem to use the idea of 'keeping'; 'a grip', 'a hold', 'a perspective', 'a sense of proportion', 'it all together'. It is clear to me how much energy this activity cost during the first two terms; focus, resolve and industry were all expended - such was the mental effort required to just 'keep going'. My suspicion is that there will still be a price this term, but it will be different.
During the Easter holiday, this blog seemed redundant. While we were all together, I couldn't imagine what I would want to write about. The urge had passed. Now that the term has started, my head is again full of things that I want to say. Writing it again feels like the most natural and obvious way of coping. It is my way of communicating to him, and anyone else who might find it interesting, and it is also my way of mulling over a very personal set of accounts; a way of calculating the price.