Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Modern Communication

This is somewhat old news now, but we sent my eldest - known as Muffin on this blog if you can remember that far back - to boarding school this September. I had never considered that this might happen, and though it will probably surprise many readers of this blog I didn't actually go to boarding school myself. Indeed I was fairly anti about many of the aspects of a private education and what was spat out at the end. This is a little different however, as it is a state boarding school, and thus populated by a relatively wide cross-section of the population (which is one of the major issues I had with private education). Faced with a number of lack-lustre options in the big smoke, we think this is the right decision. He has big skies and lots of space, and this could end up influencing his entire life for the better.

Day-to-day our once family of five is now a family of four, with an empty space at the table. I have to say it is a lot quieter as eleven year old boys are not noted for being discreet and restrained, but of course I am now hopelessly outnumbered by X chromosomes. This manifests itself in various ways, none positive. For instance Christmas Carols became de rigueur in early November.....

Obviously it's a little strange not having him here, but I am heartened knowing that he is having a fabulous time at school. Not that we as parents would ever discover this for ourselves though.... Many years ago my father went to boarding school and back then, in the days before electronics existed (or steam power!), you communicated with your parents via letter. For dedicated birders who may have difficulty understanding the concept of families and children, think of twitching before birdline or pagers, and when news of rarities was received by postcard two weeks later. 

Consequently parents never heard from their children until they picked them up at the end of term. But today in the twenty-first century it is all different. Mobile phones, text messages, emails, wi-fi, you are assured of up-to-the-minute updates of all aspects of your offspring's life. We duly equipped Muffin with a basic mobile phone and off he went. As expected this got laughed out of the dormitory and so after half term he was sent back with one of our old smartphones (with the data disabled!). Chateau L is bordering on the luddite so this was still utterly lacking in street cred, however as borderline acceptable we looked forward to daily missives of school life, achievements and disasters. News in other words. 

Ah..... So far, and in response to lengthy messages designed to reassure that daily family life continues, the longest average length of text message I have received has been three characters long, and this is significantly bumped up by typos. "OK" is the default. On a particularly verbose day I've had "Thanks". We are occasionally honoured with phone calls, the average length of which is approximately eight seconds. This is generally just enough time to say hello and then to explain that as it as after 9pm Matron is about to turn the lights out and he will get into trouble unless he hangs up. Once in a blue moon after repeated entreaties to phone us at a time when a call has a possibility of lasting more than a fraction of a second we have a slightly longer conversation. The major theme of these is slightly agitated silence as his mind wanders to whatever else is going on before he remembers he was on the phone and says "err, what, sorry?" or some such. Put simply eleven year old boys are not good at communication, and whether it is 1960 or 2015 makes no difference. We might as well have sent him to school in North Korea.

Although I am slightly put out that he has little desire to waste his precious time on us, in reality this is a very good sign. There is clearly a huge amount going on that he is completely absorbed in and calls every five minutes would indicate things were not going so well. It is a big step for a small kid, and whilst there have been the odd teething problems, overall it's very positive. Or rather, in the absence of any meaningful communication that's what we're guessing and we'll find out at Christmas.

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