School DazeJune 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Giggles, Lollipop, Transylvania | 26 Comments
Tags: Challenges, Children, Expats, Kids, Language, Milestones, Motherhood, Play, Romania, School
We got up early, sprayed down stubborn cowlicks, and chose outfits. We filled sippy cups. We grabbed backpacks. Off to preschool, just like normal.
Except, it wasn’t. It was anything but normal.
I drove the kids there. Up hills. down hills. Past aggressive taxis and huge buses. Through intersections where I might or might not be required to stop. In a car with a manual transmission. (Okay, my husband had to back me out of the steep driveway before I crashed into the neighbor’s patio. But the rest? I did it.)
We arrived at school without paying a dime, um, I mean, a ban, and without submitting a single form or vaccination record. “Just bring it when you can,” they told us last week when we toured the school. The teachers wrote our cell phone numbers on scraps of paper in case they needed us. And down the hall they went, my Lollipop and Giggles, looking very blond, very tall, and very American.
At the administrator’s request, I stayed for a few hours, at the ready in case there were language issues, trembling lips, tears, or worse. “But it’s best to stay out of sight so the children don’t see you,” she said. So I sat in the lobby. Watching a tank of goldfish blow bubbles. Smiling at parents, students, teachers, and a handful of electricians who came to install something big and white. Trying to keep Bun occupied with scarves, cookies, a diaper, and everything else I had in my bag.
For four hours, I sat. And waited. And wished I had brought my Kindle. And imagined.
I imagined my children making friends, drawing pictures, and sharing toys. But also eating a strange cafeteria lunch and trying to figure out how to flush the toilet. Getting lost on their way to the gym. Being teased in a language they can’t yet understand.
I worried. That, even though I could perfectly understand the teachers’ English, I couldn’t interpret their body language. Was I supposed to be doing something else, something more? Was the baby quiet enough? Was I supposed to make a decision or defer when they asked me things like whether Lollipop and Giggles should be in the same class for a few weeks or whether the summer camps might be better for them to start with than the preschool?
In the swirl of people and deliveries, I felt alone. Helpless. Afraid to offend or insult. Unable to advocate for my children. Unsure of what was best.
It’s not a position I’m used to being in. But it offered me a glimpse of what my own children must have been feeling just down the hall in their classrooms with the bright painted windows and bunches of flowers on the ceiling. And at least they had the familiar distraction of Legos and play-kitchen sets.
At the end of the day? They met me with smiles. Their teachers told me how well they had done. We searched for a lost pair of tennis shoes and had to go back for forgotten sippy cups. They said they’d had cabbage for lunch … and liked it.
Just like normal. Well, except for the cabbage part.
How do you handle feeling helpless? How do you hide it? And do your kids eat cabbage??