School Daze

June 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Giggles, Lollipop, Transylvania | 26 Comments
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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.)

Giggles makes friends with the school bunnies.

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??


Fluffy Bunnies in Romania:
Read the tales
See the photos.



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  1. I don’t hide it or deal with helplessness well at all. I always feel like I’m not doing enough and I wait in the shadows for someone else to lead the way.

  2. I felt like I was sitting there beside you, clenched with the tightness of the unknown. Helplessness is so very hard. And I am sitting there beside you. x

  3. I pray. A LOT.

    Also, I talk to my husband. he helps me find a way through it. Usually.

    I try to hide it at work, obviously, but just working hard. And I try to hide it from my kids, because I don’t want them to worry.

    And while my kids like a great many foods, I haven’t been able to sell them on cabbage yet. Heck, my husband doesn’t like it either! πŸ™‚

  4. What a terrific experience for your children. And I believe little kids can get past language barriers easier than adults. Play is universal.

    • You’re absolutely right: play is universal.I wonder what the International Women’s Club would do if I pulled out some Barbies to share at the first meeting I’m going to next week …

  5. What an adventure! I think it’s harder for the mommies, because we know more… of the bad as well as the good. Kids are so resilient, but yes, they notice the changes. Sounds like yours are taking it in stride. πŸ™‚

    • Yes, they are doing pretty well. Today there were tears when I dropped them off. But they came home with paint-stained fingers and painting always makes them happy. We’ll just take it a day at a time … and have good ones and not-so-good ones, I’m sure.

  6. How strange to go to school in a different language… hope you guys are enjoying yourselves!

    • It’s actually an accredited international school, so the instruction is in English (and some classes are in German). But most of the kids are Romanian and are there to learn English. So my kiddos can understand the teachers just fine but are having to find other ways to communicate with the other kids!

  7. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to sit there and wait. It sounds like you managed it gracefully, though it probably didn’t feel like that.

    This was such a fascinating entry. It leaves me turning over your questions about helplessness. I’d say my best answer is that I think of all the hard times I’ve weathered before and remind myself there will be a time whatever hard experience I’m facing now will just be another item on that list. It’s a little easier feeling that for myself than for my loved ones, for some reason, and I can only imagine how it’ll feel when I start facing these experiences with Li’l D.

  8. Stacia, what a great post. I can imagine it because I have been to Romania. I am sure that living there is different than visiting, but I remember staying at my uncle’s house for three days and feeling like it was all so foreign to me. I am impressed with your kids and you! πŸ™‚

  9. But you aren’t helpless at all, brave Stacia. You could have played it safe and keep the kids at home with you, but instead you want them to experience something new. And they’ll thrive at it, I bet. I don’t blame you for being scared, but as my mom once told me when I was changing jobs, “Change takes courage.” Congrats on making it through day 1. πŸ™‚

  10. Aw! Sweet, brave kids! I’m sure that’s a reflection on how calm and brave their mother is.

  11. I think things like this are ALWAYS harder on us than on our kids. That’s no to say that it’s not hard to be in a new situation for some kids, just that they don’t overthink it the way we moms do. I can only imagine how much harder it would be to navigate those feelings in an entirely different place than the one that you know.

  12. STacia, i cant believe you had to sit there all that time! I am sure they did fine with the other kids. Kids just seem to play no matter what the circumstance s are. I’m so , so proud of you for driving the car though!! All by yourself too! I couldn’t have done it. Kudos to you πŸ™‚
    Hugs, Missi

  13. Oh, I felt quite helpless and lost when we moved (a much shorter move, without language barriers!), but kids jump in feet first, knowing that they don’t understand everyone perfectly and that playing and smiling work better. Lucky kids.
    Good for you with the manual car! And FOUR hours!

  14. Oh so hard. I imagine the kids are doing much better than you. Kids adjust so easily. Be strong. Know that you are giving your kids (and yourself) an education of a lifetime and they will live to appreciate it. Even you.

    No it’s not fun being uncomfortable – but then I think of all the times I’m uncomfortable I’ve learned something new. You are learning and growing – growing pains.

  15. I could feel every inch of what you were experiencing in this post. I am so relieved that they came out with smiles. Children amaze me. With their ability to approach the new and unfamiliar with such abandon and grace.

  16. Oh, Stacia, my sweet friend! Those 2 kids are doing great and probably do not worry as much as one would think. They have one very important constant in their lives… YOU (& Josh)!! You get up each morning and put on your very best for them and think of them first always! The KNOW you love them dearly and they KNOW they can count on you each day no matter what!

    We love and miss you, but also are still so excited for all the adventures you are undertaking as a family!!!

    • Sorry I mentioned 2 kids b/c I was thinking of the ones going to school. I meant all 3 :-)!

  17. I’m so glad that the day went well!

    How do I handle feelings of helplessness? Poorly.

  18. No way to my kids eat cabbage…even Grandma’s famous stuffed cabbage.

    That sounds like a stressful day, but I bet the kids will do great!

  19. Kids are so much more adaptable than adults that I think you probably were more apprehensive than they were. As a parent, we tend to imagine all kinds of scenarios so as to be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our kids or to deal with the consequence but I think kids just work with what’s in front of them. “Cabbage? Sure. New language? Cool. I can try to figure out what they’re saying.”

    I have no doubt your kids will do great here. And you as well mama. xoxo

  20. Sigh of relief, right?

  21. “Afraid to offend or insult. Unable to advocate for my children.” This line got me. This is when we feel un-mommish. And it’s not a good feeling. I’ve been there. When my courage is zapped by my fear. But, like you, I rise again. And that is life. And it is good. And you are expanding….all of you.

    I saw a baby bunny yesterday, hidden in the grass. He just sat there while I called my son over to see him. I could have held him in my hand. So precious.

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