It is quiet at the house and – for us – exceptionally tidy. My middle daughter Lily has joined her big sister Sophie at boarding school and now Paddy is the only child left at home. I’ve managed to keep him busy and in the main he has adjusted well to life without siblings.
“I like being an only child.” He announced at breakfast. “It is fun sitting in the front of the car and nice not to share the computer. I also like choosing what we have for supper.”
But there was one thing Paddy missed at first: not being able to chat to Lily at bedtime. In truth, we hardly heard from her when she first went away. Sophie was, and is, very conscientious about phoning home, but when Lily went to school we were met with silence.
“She’s having such a wonderful time, she hasn’t needed to call.” I told Paddy cheerfully.
“How do you know?” He asked “maybe she’s so unhappy she daren’t ring us in case she cries?”
Although I thought this was unlikely, I did have to admit that he might have a point. I was longing to hear from Lily (she didn’t even answer my text messages or emails) and without regular bulletins from her big sister, I would have had to phone the school for an update.
I felt certain however, that whatever her reasons, this was not the moment to chastise Lily or make demands of her. In my book “Prepare your Daughter for Boarding” I explore some of the ways that boarders settle into their new environment. Some students actually find it easier to adjust if they concentrate on school and keep home contact to the minimum. Indeed, there are schools which discourage pupils from seeing or speaking to their families for the first few weeks. Lily’s school is not one of these, but nevertheless, I had to recognise that she may have chosen this route for herself.
After ten anxious days, my husband, Paddy and I drove up to see the girls.
“Have you been homesick?” Paddy asked.
“A little bit.” Lily replied. “But I’ve been very busy… and the reception here is awful so it’s not easy to phone you.”
Lily has now established where she can make calls on the school campus and she has started to phone us regularly. Perhaps, however, those first few days of silence were a blessing in disguise: She is settled and happy and moreover, she is learning to be independent.