Our children are all at boarding school and people often exclaim about how hard and lonely that must be… Well, the hardest time is when they all go back after the holidays and our house is dreadfully quiet. We work longer hours and try and keep busy so that the days will fly by. And they do. After this it becomes all rather hectic travelling between schools and trying to keep up with not only sport but the many social engagements…. Children who have been born into hospitality seem to be very good about being social!
Boarding school was all we knew as children. We were shipped off at the age of 5 and we survived but the most interesting part is that of the 7 children growing up in this beautiful valley, 6 came home to roost! So much for marrying off the daughters! That certainly back-fired!
But, what is incredible about the life of a boarder is that there is much growing up that just has to happen. They become way more organised, more independent and actually quite responsible. And there is much to be said about having a few years in primary school, learning the ropes, before heading off to high school boarding which is quite tough.
As part of our eldest daughter’s curriculum in Grade 9, the girls get to spend 3 weeks on an outdoor adventure known as uHambo – the journey – hiking with a backpack and camping in the Southern Drakensberg. We dropped our precious child off on Thursday and then headed straight home. I woke in the early hours to hear very heavy raindrops and the mothering instinct of worry kicked in properly. Would those long legs be warm enough in that sleeping bag? Would the tent leak? What if there was a problem? We live in the Northern Drakensberg which happens to be much warmer and drier than the southern reaches. I knew if we were wet and cold (it didn’t go about 6 degrees during the day at The Cavern!) then she’d be a whole lot colder and the chance of snow would be pretty high.
Now our Olive is a reasonably seasoned hiker, she’s got the mountains in her blood and sleeping in a cave is a marvellous escapade so she’d possibly have a small advantage over the other girls. They are carrying their own backpacks with tents and food and supplies (no cellphones!!) and it is by no means a walk in the park. And, the school chooses 3 weeks to reach and get over the inevitable breaking point. It’s a time for incredible growth, all whilst having a memorable journey. Each girl will have her own battle – getting on with friends, learning to go in the woods, trying to make the food last – physical and emotional challenges and a huge amount of positive growth. Some will learn to lean on others and some will have to learn how to extend a helping hand – all will be different, but equal. Long-lasting life lessons.
And I suppose this mother too will have to learn to have faith in the support and the organisers, knowing that they too want the best for our children. And, to let go, to let them really be and enjoy.
In the midst of the anxiety and wondering, the husband had another plan! Well, a new puppy has arrived and now we are fussing over a golden bundle and distracted from the worries of the children. Dogs are great friends and really do fill a vacuum in a quiet house. Our Orla, the golden princess, has joined the pack. We also know that the uHambo letters we write to her, received in the cold shadow of the Underberg Mountains, will bring huge joy to our mountain climber as she keeps on with her great journey.
Here is to 15 more sleeps!