Sunday, 7 September 2008

Boarding School

It's a strange position to be in, that of driving for five hours to leave your eldest child somewhere knowing that you will not see that child for the next six weeks.

But, I have done it.

I have now joined the ranks of wealthy British who customarily place their children into private care homes known as boarding schools. And, boy do I fit in? Yes, that's right. Not at all. The Boy is there on an almost 100% bursary, I'm at least ten years younger than any of the other parents (I'm used to that!) and I am absolutely definitely and completely the only mum with pink hair.

So, the preparation took a long time. The list of supplementary equipment was long and expensive and could not have been managed without some serious help from family (mainly my dad). Labelling that equipment as well as all the civvy clothes he took was the biggest headache. For years I have risked it with the labelling of school items, at most I'll write his name somewhere conspicuous with biro or, at best, safety pinning in a woven name tape. This was a whole new ball game.

To begin with, the labels had to be big, with surname, house and house number. I was fundamentally confused about the house number so left it late, until I'd tracked down his matron.

I do myself no favours.

The labels arrived at the last possible minute, by which time I'd bought a DIY label kit and machined them in to some of his clothes. With the woven name tapes in my hand I was in no better position as his name had been spelled wrongly, so I bought more DIY kits and turned the dining room into a workshop.

Meanwhile, he loafed around, playing with his new phone, chatting to his friends and enjoying the take away food we ate non stop to assuage my guilt at sending him away.

And now he has gone. The house is quiet, the only phone calls are for me, no neighbourhood kids are knocking on the door in case he's not busy. I can't hear 'The Hits' echoing from his television upstairs and I almost miss the sound of him thundering around the house.

Actually, I don't feel too bad. That might be different if he'd seemed miserable to be at the new school, but he didn't. Not even slightly. In fact, he almost pushed me out the door of his boarding house. He'd found a friend who he sat with in Chapel, unpacked his bed space and put his brand new Doctor Who duvet cover and pillowcase on and seemed, well, happy.

That was how I'd thought it would unfold, and now that it has, I don't feel bad: not for a second. He's going to come back an independent thinker and a capable young man. I'm confident about that because that's what his school does.

I'm also confident that I could not do that, not alone, as only one person. I get tired and ratty, I'm disorganised and often busy with other things. There's nobody to take up the slack, so often, The Boy slacks off.

At school, there maybe a lot of kids, but the adults, house staff, teaching staff and senior staff, are more collectively able and more practised at helping kids to become good adults than I will ever be.

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