When I first did my counselling training and we were exploring Human Growth and Development, I recall the Tutor asking us, "What age did you leave home?"
Most people replied 18, 22, 25.....
At that moment, it dawned on me that I left home at 11.
I know of many adults who were sent away to school much earlier. Some as young as 4 and describe themselves as then feeling visitors at their parent's home.
Many ex-boarders I've spoken to grow up with a sense of pride about having been so independent from such a young age. Doing their own washing, cooking, and not needing a parent to do things for them. There are certainly advantages to this independence, resilience and self-sufficiency. When others at University were finding it hard to settle in, I was bewildered as I had learnt how to do this 8 years previously and saw these other 18/19 year olds as immature.
However, there is also a cost. Over recent years I have acknowledged what this little girl missed out on by having to grow up so early, and detach from her child self so abruptly overnight. Ex-boarders can come face to face with this when becoming parents themselves and they may find it hard to play with their own children. As a young child themselves that part of them was shut down. It is as if they literally don't know how to do it.
In her book "The Enchanted life", Sharon Blackie speaks of how children are full of awe, magic, and wonder about the world and how this slowly erodes as we become adults. She asserts that in order for us to have greater well-being and to start caring for our planet we need to gain back our sense of enchantment. To be creative, go dancing and start to see the wonder in the world around us. It can feel like a really hard task to forge that enchantment and bring back that playfulness into our lives when it had to be cast aside so abruptly as young children who had to grow up too early.
Supertramp's song "The Logical song" was written primarily by the band's Roger Hodgson, who based the lyrics on his experiences of being sent away to boarding school for ten years. He captures the essence of this loss well.
What did your younger self miss out on when they were sent to an institution at such a young age? What would it be like to bring some playfulness back into their life? I wonder what that would look like.....xx
I am running a fortnightly course in January, to enable ex-boarders to start to explore the impact their Boarding School experience may have had on their development as children and the consequences for them now as adults. For further information click below.