On School Choirs and Changing Minds

I’ve stopped paying attention to the number of times it has either been alluded or explicitly suggested to me (usually in tones ranging from disbelief to horror), with some of these questions coming from blood relation and friends as close as it gets, that I am being “cruel” or somehow neglecting my fundamental “maternal duty” in “sending your child away from you – so young!!” with Blake being at boarding school in Cothill, home once every three weeks (“Gasp! How can you cope? Don’t you miss him? Doesn’t he miss you?” => “Aren’t you contributing to some version of long-term attachment issues/psychological damage forming in him by doing so?”).
I have sympathy for this view. Because not so long ago, I too would have recoiled reflexively at the thought of sending children so young to boarding school. I couldn’t countenance the concept of sending someone away to be entirely on his own, aged as young as 8.
How perspectives can change (if we allow ourselves to be reshaped, by shifting circumstances, outside and inside). My own 8-year-old was so keen on going himself that he earnestly asked at the end of his introduction day last term if he could “have a week-long sleepover with Blake, like, right now?”
Cothill has been an unqualified wonder for Blake, and us. And as much as I am a theorist, I am equally a realist, if not more so. My foundation of coaching training at Coach U drilled into me 14 years ago to build awareness of and directly address “things as they are – not what you fear or want them to be.” The subsequent meditation/ yoga/ mindfulness idea of “it is what it is” therefore found its exact correlate (or perhaps substrate), sown into these grounds seemingly precisely plowed for seeds like these to germinate and grow in, even though they came from very different directions and sources in my life.
I just got these marvellous photos today from one of the school secretaries. They were taken by a fellow Cothill parent who happens to be a gifted photographer. I have seen plenty of school-type portraiture, formal and informal. And there is *something* special that this photographer – Stephen Page of fatkoala Images (www.fatkoala.biz) – captures so truly, in these shots (you can play “spot the Blake” with them 🙂 although spoiler, there are a couple which I’ve included which were just really nice which have no Blake in them!).
The full album is here, well worth the couple minutes’ of perusal. Definitely one to consider if you’re wanting a photog for your own event or family album. https://cothillportraits.co.uk/index.php?/albums/12-choir-tour/
You will see a few things captured that are unfakeable. Camaraderie. Community. Warmth. Laughter. Belonging. Comfort. Confidence. Experiencing. Learning. Exploration.
Gentleness. Company. Cheekiness. Friendship. Connectedness.
What a choir is about. What a school experience should be about.
I’ll let the images speak for themselves. And as you view them, imagine what it feels like, for me, as his mum, having wanted (quite fervently) for years for him to experience the sublime joys of being part of a choir, having been in one myself from Nanyang Primary days (singing cheena songs at interschool competitions – I still remember the tune of the P6 one!) right through to the indelible days of Piero at Duino. His father, too – Philipp sang at Harrow as a member of the “School XII” chamber choir.
Blake resisted. Somehow with the group of boys in his year in his previous school, it just “wasn’t the done thing” for boys to do. It was one of those implicit shadowy things that could not be called out into the open. So I had no choice but to let it rest.
When Blake finally joined the Cothill choir last term, he expressly announced to Philipp and me that “this will make you REALLY happy, Mama and Papa.” I saw him at the Stowe choral festival, singing for the first time… and sadly, I missed this performance of the Faure Requiem, which happened when I was travelling. But I think it is clear to see that he is not just doing this “for us”. That might have been a motivation, yes. But since then, in the rich context of life at school, it has segued into something that he does for himself.
Like all the other activities he has welcomed into his life, some coming, some going, some staying…but you see, *this* is in itself a priceless life lesson he is getting to practice along the way. How to think, feel, act, respond for himself.
And as a mother who has always known from the beginning that none of my children have ever “belonged” to me, they have always only ever “been on loan” to me for a while, to enjoy… to see such clear and happy evidence of him slowly but surely sailing into a life he is making every day more of his own, is perhaps the deepest eudaimonic heart-pangingly sweet joy/pride/satisfaction that being a parent can afford.

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