How this book came to be written
As our eldest child neared the end of her prep school education we began to embark on the bewildering process of finding her a senior school.
It was nerve wracking and rather exhausting. We discovered the joys of registration, waiting lists and hefty deposits, and as Mark and I trudged round various excellent day and boarding options, we found ourselves on endless mailing lists – every day another prospectus seemed to arrive in the post. Emotionally, I felt the process was akin to house hunting and although many of the schools were superb and would have been fine for our daughter, we left each one without the overwhelming sense that this was “it”. Ten-year-old Sophie rejected one school on the basis that the dormitories smelt of cabbage. At another we found it rather off putting when the registrar told us she used to know my father-in-law, adding “Is he dead now?”[s1]
Of course these are minor points and should not perhaps have affected our decision. Indeed, we were beginning to think that we should stop being so fussy, especially as we were running out of time. Then we stumbled across Sophie’s Granny’s alma mater: a full boarding school for girls – and finally the search was over.
As we drove up the tree lined drive towards the mellow bricked mansion which housed the main school, Sophie’s face began to glow. As she listened to the Headmistress talk about building friendships, she was radiant and by the time she’d had the tour, met numerous girls and visited a “dorm” she was adamant that this was where she belonged. My husband and I were impressed with the academic results – and all the extras – and we signed up then and there. We came away feeling elated. Although boarding had not been a foregone conclusion, it seemed that this was Sophie’s destiny. That night, with “Harry Potter” on her bedside table and “MaloryTowers” under her pillow, she vowed to work as hard as she could to pass her common entrance and gain a place.
Triumphantly, I phoned my great friend Claire.
“At last!” I crowed, “We’ve done it, we’ve found the right school. Sophie’s happy and dying to board.”
There was a brief silence. Claire knows my family very well.
“Mmmm” she said slowly, “Well you’ve still got time. You’ll have to get to work to prepare her and give her more responsibility. Can she change her own bed linen? Does she wash her own hair?”
I suddenly realised Sophie was nowhere near ready to live independently from me. In my zest to mother her I hadn’t often allowed her the opportunity to do things for herself – the kind of things that she would be expected to know if she was boarding. I realised that I would have to let go of her a little, even before she went off to school and that if I did this, she would find it much easier to settle in.
- Sophie’s Choice (thebestpictureproject.wordpress.com)