"All the other kids get mail and packages from home." "They do?" I asked. "I call you almost every day and I email you, too." Suddenly, Hart's complaint made perfect sense. Phone calls and email are ephemeral, but a letter or package is tangible proof that someone loves you and cares about you.
Thankfully, friends and relatives have helped. Hart has received postcards from traveling friends, numerous elephant-themed cards, treats from his uncle in the food business, a soccer ball from his sporty uncle, and a number of handmade cards and pictures from his classmates from last year. And, weekly postcards from me.
It's lonely for Hart living in an institutional setting. However, it's lonely and isolating for me, too. I hadn't quite reckoned on that. We have no boarding school system in this country, so having a child "away" is odd and unusual. Hart's school has no PTO or parent support group that I know of, possibly due to privacy issues. I am getting used to the quizzical looks when acquaintances ask after Hart.
I think of Hart constantly. Possibly even more than when he lived with me. Back then, when the boys left for school, I would shift gears for a few hours, then regroup for their return home at 3:30. Now the days without Hart drag on endlessly. I don't supervise his homework anymore, but I don't know what he is doing in school at all. I worry about Hart's weight and appearance, but I can't select his clothes or cook for him from afar. I have entrusted all that to strangers, professionally-qualified strangers, but still . . .
The choice to send Hart to residential school is the essence of parenting writ large: make your best choices; know your own limitations.
May 2001. We both look much younger!