“You will go back to school in a few days,” I told my daughter last week.
I then began to dance shaku shaku as I watched her face crumble from being reminded of school.
‘Come, what is it with you these children?’ I asked her.
‘You don’t want to go back to school? Please hurry and be going, this house has tried for you people,” I added.
And indeed the house had tried. It had doubled its waste collection, taken in more smoke from the food they often forgot on the gas burner, muted the echoes that used to follow me when they are not around.
The door hinges had loosened from the constant slamming whenever they went in or out of their rooms (they have never learned to shut the doors quietly).
The house had endured the loud music from all the music channels on TV and yes, the remote, the poor remote, had lost a few buttons.
I had also lost a few plates in the kitchen, and glass cups as well; let’s not talk about how slim my wallet has gone.
No, we won’t.
I’ve been acting like I won’t miss them when they return to school; like I would actually enjoy the empty house; like I would delight in having no child to call on or scream at or order to get me the remote control lying by my feet or ask to make me a cup of tea.
I made it look like I would not crumble every time I opened my door and there would be no child to take my bag and ask me how my day has been.
No child whose room I would march into and scream at the untidy bed or kitchen with the soaked pots of poundo or clothes forgotten in the washing machine or on the line.
My kids will not understand that I would soon be groaning under my breath when I walk past their empty rooms.
They won’t hear me sigh heavily when I sit on their beds and look around their rooms for a feel of them.
They will not know how I often say their names as I pick up a forgotten sock in the corner or a book or ear phones or shirt they’ve carelessly thrown around, perhaps while hurrying to leave for school; (we always leave in a blind hurry because they never seem to ever be ready for school).
I imagine they may never find out how much I long for them when I walk crookedly around the house, needing a back or leg massage they often offer to give me every time they see me hipperty-hopping from the strains of life.
All they see right now is a mother eager to send them off to school, not my heart breaking into several pieces.
Yes, several pieces that are threatening to scatter all over.
I know I will cry again; I haven’t learned not to every time I see them off.
I will mope around the house for a few days and afterwards begin the countdown to when they’ll come home again.
And I am not alone; I have spoken to several parents whose children are either in the boarding house or off at the university;
‘How do you cope? Who send una message say make una send una children to school far away from home?
Do you enjoy the quietness? Is it always better for you when they are gone to school?’
Over and over again, the answers have always been, ‘No.’
‘We miss them sorely…’
‘My heart can’t take this anymore…’
So why do we do this?
I am no child psychologist but being a product of the boarding system and schooling out of the parent’s gaze myself, I have a few theories.
First off, I think it’s for their independence; much as we want our children to see us as their all, we need them to be away from us to learn a few social, even survival skills in the event that we are unable to reach them or teach them ourselves.
Children learn to live with people who are totally different from them in every ramification.
They learn the temperaments of others; they learn how to manage people, how to relate with people, how to survive with very little.
They learn discipline; discipline with people, places and things.
My daughter, for instance, refused to sleep by herself, in her room or on her bed until she went to the boarding house.
I recall several nights of ordering her back to her bedroom and by midnight, there would always be a small warm body hugging me on my bed.
I cajoled, I threatened, I spanked, I did everything I could to make her sleep on her bed, none worked.
Today, I practically have to beg her to leave her room and talk to me.
Secondly and I’m rounding off with this, I think boarding house helps us as parents to plan, save a few notes here and there for them in the nearest future.
The cost of keeping them in the house, I have found, is heavier than the cost of sending them off to the boarding house.
For me, for instance, I save on the cost of fueling the gen, (once the kids are home, I must fuel the generator; regularly, sometimes every two days).
Electricity cost goes up, for those of us with prepaid meters as well as the cost of fueling the car per week because of school runs and no thanks to the mad traffic.
Private tutors may also be needed versus the free extra classes the boarding system provides; there will be a need to have someone/nanny/house help to watch them, even if only to ensure your kids do the right thing.
Then, of course, the food they consume like piranhas, everything eatable is consumed!
Although, many times I confess, what I saved up from the list above can be consumed in just one week of them being back home!
So, while I wipe off a few stray tears, here’s wishing all our children who are back to school, a successful year and to you parents, cheer up, they’ll soon be done with school and lounging on your sofas and eating up all your food!