ZOMBIE THREAD ALERT: This thread hasn't been posted on for a while.
CHORISTER PARENTS - EMOTIONAL ADVICE NEEDED(32 Posts)
I have an only Son who is a Chorister and is boarding. He is into his second year now.
I have always struggled with letting him go to be a Chorister although I would never show him. This was something he wanted to follow and I didnt want to be resented at a later date.
He has always been an independant boy but always loving and caring. I have noticed these past few months (just turned 11 years) that he is becoming increasingly distant and couldnt care less if he comes home or not on the few hours we do get with him on a Saturday morning. When I ring him in the week at the allocated time, he comes to the phone but is always in the middle of something and want to get off of the phone.
I feel like I am losing him and it is killing me. Just today I rang to remind him that he had Cathedral duties on Saturday so we wont see him then but we will see him on Sunday and have Mothering Sunday Lunch. He replied that he isnt particularly fussed if we came up or not and to only bother if we wanted to! I reminded him that we were going to lunch for Mothering Sunday to which he replied good for you!
He knows that I love him, I always tell him and he does know that I miss him but have always reinforced that I am happy as long as he is happy and the moment that he isnt happy, I would take him from Choir in a heartbeat. But he seems happy and rarely complains.
I dont know what this is all about other than he is in their care and I only get to see him for a few hours a week, most of which he is on his kindle or pc!
My knee jerk reaction is to just take him out of the school and end the Choristership, I am so worried about losing him completely and him becoming too detached.
I think you may be blaming the boarding for the separation and growing apart that happens naturally at this age? My DD is not a boarder but she is not particularly interested in spending time with us (unless it's around her main hobby and that's because she needs the transport!) if she has the option of being with her friends in person or online. We do create opportunities and she'll respond well (e.g. watching a rubbish film
What a difficult situation for you op.
Re the mothers day lunch, I an just thinking that lunch is not that exciting for an 11 year old and that may be why he is not particularly enthusiastic. Appreciate it I, mothers day and its nice to do something for you, but wonder whether he may respond better to an alternative plan that's more interesting for him than a grown up lunch? Just a thought, perhaps a family day out somewhere may be better received
As another mum to an only DS who boarded I do feel for you.
I'm afraid (?) you are describing a happy boy. Taking him out of school might cause massive resentment. Try (hard as it is) to see the positives. You have raised a boy with the emotional maturity to handle the discipline of choristership and the potential challenges of boarding - and to enjoy both experiences.
I have an 11 year old , is yours year7 or yr 6 equivalent. Mine is son number 3 and I do think that there is a drawing away at this age especially if he is nearer 12 than 11, it's just highlighted by the fact that he boards.
One of the hardest things about boarding ( and I speak as an ex boarder myself and mother of a boarder who is 15) is that they truly settle when school becomes as good as home , and that is very hard for parents.
Our eldest went through a phase of telling not to bother coming to things at school, of course we went anyway , as he fully expected us to .But it's all part of growing up , our son knew we would come, and now 19 acknowledges how much he liked the fact that we came to things but you wouldn't have thought it at the time!
Have you thought about the next stage, presumably his school is prep only ,will he revert to days for secondary .
There has been some research done that suggests that, as they enter puberty, there are so many changes going on in a boy's brain, that some other abilities basically fall out for a while - empathy being one of them - so it may well be that this isn't anything to do with the boarding, but is part of becoming a teenager.
I should say that the researcher (whose name I cannot remember at this precise moment - sorry) said that the loss of empathy etc was temporary, whilst all these changes were taking place, and they do come back.
I agree with Marialuisa that they become quite rapidly independent of their parents at this age anyway. We are an inconvenience to them. They have a vivid life of their own and are learning to manage it for themselves. This is right. It's healthy - it's just really hard on us who are used to small boys will teddies tucked under their arms whose lives revolve around us.
But that's not to say we can let them stay detached. Insist on seeing him mother's Day. Insist you can't wait to take him out for lunch and have your special day with your son. Then see if there's something he'd love to do with you afterwards - see a film or go bowling or similar.
Hi Tenalady - I boarded from 11 to 18, thoroughly enjoyed it and hardly ever spoke to my parents, I was totally involved in my school life. Questions about what or how I was doing were met with cheery monosyllables. It means he's very happy there AND that he feels entirely confident in your love for him. I still LOVED my mum and am still very close to her. But during school term she was just a far off figure in my brain who sent me money for the tuck shop and who was waiting for me in that far off place called the holidays. It must be SO hard for you. But you are NOT losing him. And in many ways, it's a good deal - he goes through all the teenage freedom thing without you actually having to do all the daily arguments! You may end up way closer to him as a teenager as a result, I think my brother and I both were. Hope this helps.
And I bet you have a fabulous Easter holiday with him!
Also, he probably wants to appear to be cool. 11-14 is the age where children are at their most embarrassed by their parents involvement IME.
My DS2 has full boarded since he was 7 scratching around in the memory banks triggered by your post I too remember a phase when he was about 8 1/2 - 9 yrs old when he was too "busy" being with his friends doing school activities to be overly interested in me. He's now nearly 15 and is still full boarding and we are exceedingly close.
I've said this before sending your child to a boarding school is a balance if you and he believe that what he gets from boarding is better than what he would get if he didnt board then the scales tips in favour of boarding but if one or both of you are unhappy then the balance shifts and you start to question am I doing the right thing? You need to try and be objective. Ask yourself is he happy? Is he getting the sort of education you've always hoped he would get whether it be musical academic etc? Where would he go if you took him out would this musical/academic education be as good if it's not would you mind? How would he feel if you removed him. I recently had a conversation with an 18 yr old who was removed from his full boarding school by his mother because she missed him and moved to a day school he felt if he'd stayed at the boarding school life/education would have been different (of course he'll never know if this is true) and resented his mother for moving him. I don't know anything about choristers but at most boarding schools terms are short and holidays long especially the wonderful long summer one. I'm assuming you can attend matches concerts plays try and do this hopefully you will feel more part of his life. When my DS was a prep I wrote at least twice a week and sent a small gift a comic/book/amusing toy once a week you feel more connected to them.
OP I found it almost impossible to allow my son to board & we used it to dissuade him from his school. DS used to phone me every night for the first term. It would be a small conversation about nothing but it was good to hear his voice.
After a couple of terms, DS started to dislike boarding, but he loved his school. I felt terribly guilty for allowing him to board in the first place & my guilt could have made matters worse for him. I'm not saying this is an issue with you & your son, just saying I've walked in your shoes! It would be a good idea to,talk to your DS housemaster who may be able to she'd some light on the matter? Don't forget they've seen this all before & probably know more about how to advise you. It's highly likely to be nothing & sadly just your son maturing into the wonderful young man he will become. My son became distant for a short period of time at around 12. He's now 17 & we are as close as we were when he was a toddler. My DS chose to leave his boarding school after GCSEs & is now happy (& coasting) at the local sixth form college. Things will work themselves out OP.
Oh goodness, all of mine have been like this at 11-12! Not sure it's anything to do with boarding, more to do with being an 11 year old boy with tons going on. Does he know that he has the option? If so, then that's all you can do. I'm afraid I agree that if you pulled him out now he might resent it, especially if he is really enjoying it. Can you maybe nip in to take him out to tea unexpectedly from time to time? And send him little things- a cake, a little pair of gloves. Just little tokens to show him you're thinking of him. My brother says it made a lot of difference to get little parcels, even if he never wrote back! He's very grateful I sent him things and has said so very recently.
Mine who are both music scholars (but not boarding, and sadly voices now broken) don't speak much and they are at home. It sounds pretty normal to me.
However I would say having had 3 other teenagers before that even if they say they aren't bothered they probably do want you there and even if they don't keep going.
Make sure he gets the choice at 13 to go to a good private day school though in case he changes his mind about boarding as that is a good break point to change back.
To be honest, reading your post it sounds as if your DS is enjoying his time at boarding school and it is you who is struggling with it.
I have 2 sons at (different) boarding schools. We are lucky that, although both schools are full boarding, we live close enough to be able to attend church/go to matches/pop in for tea at the weekend.
My younger DS (aged 12) phones most nights, and and makes it clear that he enjoys our weekly visits.
My older son ( aged 15) always said he didn't mind if we came or not, and rarely phones or texts (usually only if he wants/needs something!) . Only recently has he started to ask if we are coming (rather than never asking, and always saying 'you don't have to etc) and is only just beginning to be chatty when we do see him . Some visits seemed to be a monologue on my part with him looking disinterested/bored/over my shoulder etc while I chatted on - this is slowly changing as he sometimes actually initiates the conversation!The point of my ramble is my elder DS was always chatty and told me everything. I did not put boarding school down as the reason he stopped, I just thought it was part of teenagedom - memories of how I treated my parents spring to mind. ( and I was the same when I was at boarding school - which I loved)
friends with children at day school say their children are similar - getting home, going to their rooms and not emerging for hours at a time. Even then conversations are not always great!
So before pulling your son from the school - check how he feels - he may resent being moved. Ask if you can get a similar education locally at a day school and start investigating day schools for later.
Keep visiting - even though he doesn't say so, he probably loves seeing you - but doesn't tell you as he is becoming a teenager!
(while visiting my elder son, it is interesting to see the older boys are much more demonstrative with their parents. An age/confidence thing perhaps?)
I have an 11 year old boy (Year 7) and I empathise with you. My son is a day-boy. I literally couldn't bear to see him for only a few hours a week and would be very sad if he didn't seem interested in seeing us. Your son is probably enjoying himself, but I drew away from my parents when I was sent to boarding school, as I thought they had abandoned me - so a kind of self defence. There are times when my son clearly doesn't want me around or to interfere in his life and I am aware that he is growing up and that's just part of it, but there are other times when he still really needs our day to day support and care. But I really understand you, when you say you'd like to take him out, as they grow up so fast and they they are gone.
Perhaps as someone else said, you could organise a day out that revolved more around him than you though - skateboarding, or lunch and a movie.
Our son was a chorister and is now a music scholar. He boarded from 8. I am sure you are just experiencing a normal passage to manhood. DS voice has become very deep this year and we love that his answerphone message is from last year is super high! Make sure you get some good recordings of your son before his voice changes. There was an excellent program based at Salisbury all about choristers and their lives etc. (Dr Richard Seal was the choir master I think)
Ds is at a state school and comes home every afternoon, but he's still exactly as you describe your ds: it's the age imho and that insecure need to assert their independence, just in case we'll be trying to stop them from leaving home when they're 37 (as if! ).
In fact, I've been thinking about giving Mother's Day a miss and letting dh take me out for a drink instead. I'm getting fed up with having my nose rubbed in "I can't be arsed to make an effort for you". I know he doesn't mean it, I know he loves me really, but there are days when the assumed indifference really gets my goat.
In my experience (boarding from 10-17) you do detach yourself from your Mum to an extent to 'deal' with her not being there. I think it's perfectly normal and sounds like he is coping well. My 10 year old will be going full boarding next year at the other end of the country, he can't wait, I'm secretly dreading it! Problem is, my 7 year old has become so interested in it all he has now asked to change schools so he can weekly board. I am holding on to my 6 year old for dear life!!!
We try and bring them up so we know they'd be OK without us, but when it comes to it - we don't really want them to be
Condorsrockers you summarised it all brilliantly well.
Tenalady yes it unfortunately/ fortunately sounds like he is enjoying his boarding life and you would deteriorate your relationship if you tried to take him out of it all ( out of his life in for all he is concerned).
How does your professional life look like? Perhaps it is time to find some interesting activities for yourself and concentrate on your life for a change, go back to your ex career or find something new etc... That would take your mind off things, allow you to pursue your interests and also give something interesting to talk to your son when you see him... He may suddenly start perceiving you in a slightly different light if you show him that your horizon does not end up where his is ;-)
Above all stay calm and patience. Emma
OP, is there someone at his school or boarding house you could have a chat to? My DS is coming to the end of his time as a chorister and we have built wonderful relationships with matrons and teachers who have really got to know my son and with whom I could have conversations about his emotional development. I wouldn't remain silent about your worries - have a chat to someone and see what they think. As others have said it's probably a good sign.
Do you really think that by taking him out of school and away from the choir that you will get your little boy back? Sorry, but that just won't happen. He's eleven, he's growing up, and this is just a phase he's going through. You chose this life for him, and now he's really getting on well, you can't just change your mind because it's not so good for you. Not long until the holidays..!
Ds is in his second term as a chorister and does flexi boarding. I've noticed a change in how he is and he is only 8. He is more grown up than his peers and more independent. We were at a family wedding this weekend. Ds is tall for his age (although not hugely tall) and that together with his behaviour made most people think he was 12 and were genuinely shocked to be told his age.
Although it can be hard seeing him so grown up I wouldn't change what he is doing. He absolutely loves being a chorister. I miss him but I am hugely proud of his achievements and his hard work. I feel my job as his parent is to support him and love him and help him to develop into the best person he can be. Trying to keep him young and stop him growing up just wouldn't work at all.
Being a Cathedral chorister is a full on life. If your son is settled and enjoying it then you must have done something right, and he will gain such a lot from the experience - perhaps for life.
It won't help him if he's made to feel guilty and, if he's so settled, removing him could backfire spectacularly on you.
Thank your lucky stars you have such a well balanced child.
Btw he probably could do without you reminding him that you'll whisk him away at the first sign of difficulty. Do you go to services and see him in his professional role? It's the closest a child will ever come to being on the same level as an adult in terms of ability and expectation. Something to be immensely proud of ( for both of you).
Thank you everyone, I feel a whole lot better hearing that it is all normal around his age and together with boarding it just seems to heighten the loss I feel.
Phew! right back to it then, just keep pedalling on.
Join the discussion
Please login first.