Doing the best for your children is all that any of us can ever hope to do. So when six years ago eldest daughter was looking at secondary schools and asked if she could also look at the very nice, local, but private school for Girls. We couldn't resist.
It was lovely. Everything that you could possibly want for your daughter. Bright, beautifully decorated buildings, a gym to die for, a fantastic modern indoor swimming pool, an auditorium with snazzy snap back seating and more spare land to surround it than the rest of Monmouth put together. Probably the rest of Wales really. And probably in truth, to send five chidren there you need to be looking at most of the available disposable income from Wales.They even gave us proper coffee when we went to the interview.
Being who she is, Eldest Daughter sat the exam with absolute determination and gained a 25% bursary offer as a result. We did our sums and somehow made 2+2 add up to 3. (Hubby is the mathematician amongst the two of us. I am just an optimist) It all seemed quite reasonable, the day we did the sums. She went, and I started my business to pay for it.
Now bear this in mind, I am married to a lovely Civil Servant. He is on a Civil Servant's salary. The day that we made that decision must have been the day that we thought we saw a magic beanstalk growing in the garden up to the geese that laid the golden eggs. I like to think that we are intelligent people, but that day, the day that we made the decision to send our children to private school, someone had taken away our intelligent brain cells and swapped them for ones which didn't see the wood for the trees. Quite good considering we live in a Forest.
A year later, we were so thrilled with it all (I just loved those carpeted hallways and leather sofas for parents to sit in while waiting) that we decided to expand the business and send number 2 and 3 to the Prep Schools within the same organisation. We moved house too. So as to be on a better bus route.
A year later still and the expanded part of the business hadn't taken off with the same gusto as the first bit. So we remortgaged, I started yet another bit of the business and struggled on. Six months later, new bit of business was doing well, but the bit that was ailing was seriously struggling still - wrong area - and so I eventually, after much discussion and soul searching closed that. Only problem was that it left me with insufficient income and huge debts.
After more deep soul searching and discussions with various people, we gave notice to the schools for Eldest daughter, who was coming up to the end of Year 9 and due to start her GCSE course that September and Eldest son only son, who was just finishing primary school. Local school couldn't take daughter number two to do year 6, so we made a decision, with the school's blessing, who were by now in full knowledge of our situation, to keep her there for another year, until the end of her primary school.
We promised them too much money in repayments and struggled on. Again.
Meanwhile Eldest daughter and Eldest son got into brilliant state grammar schools and second daughter sat for various grammar schools to move onto after primary school.
Everything went according to plan (that is plan number 2) and all moved in time to state grammar schools. The kids were fantastic. Their awful parents had promised them the Earth and given them just the type that comes out of the ground. But they rose to the occasion and have positively embraced everything that has since been thrown at them. Which I personally believe makes ED's Angel campaign for Orange all the more deserved by her. Her parents have managed to struggle one way or another for the last 20 years. I would never wish to inflict such struggle on our children, so if they can become financially solvent at an early age, all I can say is thank God. And clearly there is one who is looking after my children in the absence of a good mother.
I was a wreck for weeks. No, months. Years. Even now I can't write this without tears streaming down my face. Because I feel, as a mother, I have failed. I set out to do something for my children which I didn't achieve. We all make occasional rash promises to our children, and sometimes it doesn't work out exactly as planned, but this was a very very big mistake.
The worst thing was that when eventually daughter number two left at the end of Year 6, we still owed the school money. I also had big business debts, and the most ridiculously oversized mortgage. I joke in my other blogs about huge mortgage for huge house for huge family. Like most jokes the funny thing is, that it is funny to those who know us, because it isn't funny. But being funny and looking at the funnier side of life is my way of dealing with everything else that has been going on in my life recently.........
Last month after struggling so hard for the last five years, I finally sold out my business to my franchisor. There is no profit and I still have business debts. I still run the business as a manager for a weekly fee. They have been very good to me, and I am quite blessed in that sense.
There won't be enough money left to pay off the debt to the school. And currently, they won't accept our offer of meagre monthly payments. They are being, to say the least, unpleasant. And so it's a bit of a mess really.
But, thank God, it's only money. And I do believe that there is definitely more to life.
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