January 6, 2017 at 02:33PM
I can understand why you did it. In theory. I understand that you wanted to give me the best education money could buy. I don’t blame you for sending me away to an extremely strict boarding school when I was very young. I think you genuinely thought it was best for me – and for my younger brother, who you also sent away, to another boarding school in another part of the country, miles away from me.
What I find harder to forgive is that when there were clear signs that things weren’t working out – when I was constantly in trouble and deeply unhappy – when I attempted to kill myself as a teenager – you didn’t do anything about it. I can’t understand why you didn’t admit it wasn’t working out, pull me out of school and let me come home so we could figure it out together. I can’t understand how you let us come home at the holidays and didn’t once say: Stay here. How could you not pick up on the signs that my sibling was being bullied? Why didn’t you make any attempts to repair your family? You were meant to try to make things better. Isn’t that what parents do? After I ran away, after I tried to kill myself, you told me to pick myself up and go back to school – and that’s what I did. This taught me that, no matter how bad I feel, nothing will change and I just have to battle on – an unhelpful belief that has taken decades to work through.
I tried for such a long time to forget. I knuckled down, I got a degree, I appeared successful. But now, I can’t forget. I can’t stop wondering what you did with your time – how you justified it to yourself. Were the boat cruises, dinner parties, and weekends abroad worth it? Perhaps it was the convenience of it all – you never had to wash my school uniform, help with my homework, invite my friends over or pick me up from football or swimming or parties. You had oodles of spare time to spend with each other, in your immaculate home. You could do what you wanted. That must have been nice.
I’m angry that you didn’t feel strongly enough to change things. How could you have borne it, to know that your child was being woken up with a bell, not a kiss? How could you have trusted me to a bunch of strangers? You said that you loved me, but when I needed you most, your love wasn’t there. Your letters and postcards and phone calls weren’t enough.
Underneath the anger, I feel sorry for you. I know that the cracks are now showing. You’re reaping what you sowed. You still travel the globe, but now I think it’s to escape the loneliness of your lives. As you survey the dysfunctional wreck of the family you didn’t quite bring up, I wonder if you feel remorse and wish you’d done things differently.
My own children go to state school. It’s not perfect, it’s not exclusive, but that’s OK. Because the best education isn’t anything money can buy. It’s being at home, with your family, in a messy, chaotic, imperfect, and consistent way. That’s the way to bring up children. You show up every day. You’re there. It’s the best upbringing anyone can give a child, and the funny thing is, it doesn’t cost a penny.
I am trying to move on and forgive you, but it feels so hard when my feelings of abandonment and vulnerability leak into every part of my life. And when you ask for attention and companionship as you become increasingly infirm, do you have any idea how tempting it is for me to ignore you?
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