April 11, 2021

Is becoming a boarding school mom easier said than done? Blog by Paawana Poonacha

Mums and Stories has received this write-up from a mum whose child has just entered his boarding school life and this is her perspective on what happens during the initial phase.

Of boarding schools and harried moms!

Just when the motherhood cycle was gearing up to tackle teenage tantrums, I was accosted by a new kind of challenge. Not from my son, but mine own – I had become a boarding school mom sooner than I imagined!

We were only toying with the thought when my son, more than anyone else, made up his mind to go to one. Entrance tests and assessments followed. Confused with the quick turn of events, I wasn’t sure which way things were headed. It turned out, he was leaving home soon… to manage himself in a so-called strict, all-boys boarding school!

As I counted down on the days, I was making uneasy attempts to dispel fears about boarding schools, this one in particular. “What’s-life-without-some-adventure, or how-nice-to-be-growing-up-with-children-your-age,” I would tell him, forever reminding him to buck up to the disciplined, no-frills, packed life that lay ahead. My anxieties got worse when I couldn’t elicit the desired response. “I’ve heard you Mama, so many times,” he would say, looking bored. I even made a desperate offer of a fancy holiday if he managed a happy stay in the boarding that year. It seemed like my hysterics had been well accepted for a deal.

The day had finally arrived. He caught me tearing up in the lift. “You’re crying, seriously?!” he said, rather amused. Then we got in to the car and drove in silence. I insisted we stopped at his favorite ice-cream shop en-route. Hubby just played along, quietly – anything to please the son in the “final moments” together!

The mood in the campus appeared somber. After the initial round of meeting with the authorities, my son, who seemed somewhat quiet and confused until then, announced suddenly, “I think I am confident I can manage well.” What a relief to hear that! Most other boys looked cheerful too. But the moms had somewhat the same harried look, eager to start conversations with strangers and get the boys to quickly make friends with each other. Tears, hugs and kisses for the boys followed even as some looked embarrassed with the open outpour of affection. And before we moms knew it, we had bid goodbye to the boys, and left the campus like long lost soul sisters.

The best thing is, we get to visit the school every Sunday. They are filled with scenes of discrete groups of people clutching around their wards with snacks and smartphones, similar to those “anything to please the child” moments, and yet not getting enough of them. “The first two-three days I cried, but now I’m fine,” my son told me, very matter-of-factly. Holding back my emotions, I asked him in the same tone why he had cried. “I was missing you,” came another matter-of-fact response. I could only get myself to smile back at him.

He was settling down faster than I was. It appeared the same for other moms too. It seemed as if we were trying to make sense with the rising enthusiasm and optimism of our children. Anxious conversations with fellow moms resumed on the WhatsApp group—Has your son complained about hot water?, my son had a sore throat when he called today, Oh, my son didn’t call home, someone stole my son’s chocolates etc.—all such anxieties often ended with a hopeful “everything will fall in place” sentiment. Nevertheless, the pit in the stomach was palpable for most of us, for weeks.

Several Sundays, monthly outings, many letters and phone calls and dozens of picture exchanges later, the mood among the mothers seems brighter. Issues that were worrisome earlier are now endured with some humor. The discussions are most often on some school outing, a swimming competition won, study and meditation time and so on, as if happily acknowledging the grooming they were receiving. The journey of these boarding school moms seems to have caught up pace and going well!

As for me, the motherhood cycle is on the fast track. I am happy that my not-so-expressive teenager writes letters home, promptly signing off with “Love you” and “Don’t worry about me, I am managing well,” and so on.

Last Sunday, I checked with him specifically, “Are you happy here, Son?” to which he replied in his typical no-nonsense tone, “Yes Mama, I’m happy and I don’t miss you anymore!” Err… How I wish Diplomacy was a subject included in the school curriculum. 😉 🙂

Paawana is a mother of two boys and a Corporate Communications specialist in a global IT company.

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