Fynn started kindergarten three weeks ago and the change in his behavior has been weighing heavy on my heart and clouding my head. I’ve been consumed with this topic to the point that it is affecting my German language skills; an ultimate indicator that I am stressed.
This time of year is both a stress and a relief all at once… the children go back to school! Don’t get me wrong, I feel lucky that I have an empty house in which I can write. But this past Monday? Yikes!
In Germany, “Kindergarten” is similar to preschool in the US, but the children can start sooner than three, and you are charged a fee in addition to the government subsidizing a portion.
Getting into a kindergarten isn’t easy; there is a lineup. We put Fynn on the waitlist before I was even pregnant with our second. And in order to prepare Fynn for his first year in kindergarten, the Tagesmutter and we started psyching him up with a high-pitched, enthusiastic voice each time we mentioned kindergarten.
He was stoked to start!
The First Week
In the beginning, kindergarten entails an acclamation period (Eingewöhnung) when the mother goes with the child to the kindergarten for one, two… however many days for however many hours until the child is weaned off the mother and settles in alone.
The first two times he went for the acclamation period, it was fabulous. He didn’t need me nor notice I was even there. Each day we increased the time and by the end of the first week, he was going 9 a.m. to 3:00 or 3:30 p.m. alone.
The Second Week
On Thursday, as I was leaving I saw Fynn pounding on the window crying; I went back to give him a hug and kiss then continued on my way thinking it was odd, but only a one-time occurrence.
By Friday, I learned he was crying each day after I left. Not for long, and he was fine for the rest of the day, but the fact that he was crying broke my heart.
I wondered why I was only now hearing that he was crying every day and only after the second Friday morning when he asked for me to stay with him.
Talk about feeling like a bad parent! How did I not know he wasn’t adjusting?
Then the teacher gently told me she thought 9:00 to 3:00 was too long for him.
What?! I thought this was a normal time frame and I thought he was having fun.
After all, children in the US go to daycare for even longer periods and Fynn went to the Tagesmutter for the same amount of time, if not longer some days.
This prompted me to wonder if it was Fynn having a hard time adjusting, or if maybe this wasn’t the right kindergarten for him.
The Third Week
On Monday night, I frantically finished Fynn’s “Ich Buch” (Me Book), which has family pictures in it. The teacher and I were hoping it might help calm him each morning.
And wouldn’t you know, the morning after I exhausted myself on the “Ich Buch,” he woke up and yakked all over. I kept him home from school that day not knowing what was wrong.
Maybe it was from going to the public pool the evening before, but I, of course, started to wonder if it was from being nervous about kindergarten. While at home, he was fine the rest of the day.
Every morning though, he asked to stay home and at some point he started stuttering again and continues to stutter today.
In an unforeseen turn of events, last Saturday, he refused to wear a diaper. I was excited. And we started potty training.
Then Monday morning came…
In addition to putting together all of Fynn’s school stuff again (his newly renovated school was open for the first morning), it was the baby’s first day at the Tagesmutter, so I was putting together all of his stuff.
As I was making Fynn’s breakfast to bring to kindergarten, those thoughts and feelings of anxiety started to return to me; I felt the tightening in my chest and like I couldn’t breathe.
All of this stress from kindergarten, potty training, and the stuttering becoming worse hit me like a wall of bricks.
I called for Kay to help, but of course, the apocalypse could hit and he would sleep right through it.
So there I was putting together a stupid German breakfast while trying to pull myself together just so we could get out of the house.
When we arrived to the still-being-renovated-kindergarten, there was a sign on the door that said, “Klingel.” (Ring the doorbell)
Ok, ring what and where? There are three friggin’ different buttons. Yes, I was done for the day and it had only just started.
On the other side of the glass door, there were two construction workers looking at me. Finally one took pity, saw I was completely confused, and although not his job, finally opened the door for me.
Being a typical German, he started yammering away about how I had to use the doorbell… but at least he was smiling.
Ding-dong! What effin’ button do I use and what the hell are you saying because I don’t understand a single word of it?
Of course I didn’t really say what I was thinking, but graciously thanked him professing, “Ich habe nicht gesehen…” (I haven’t seen…)
I spoke to the teachers to let them know Fynn didn’t have on a diaper (they were excited too) and then Fynn started asking me to stay.
As a mother, his pleading tugged at my heartstrings, but I also know there are times I must be strong. And in order for him to grow and develop into an independent person, I know I have to set the right examples. Often times, I think I am too harsh or cold-hearted so it’s a fine balance between nurturing too much and pushing too hard to move forward too quickly.
I explained to Fynn that I had to go to work, and the teacher was kind enough to move him onward with breakfast.
This is all new; I know it will take time. But why do I feel like something isn’t right?
I felt so comfortable with the Tagesmutter and always talked to her about any insecurities or questions I had. Despite the difference in language, it went smoothly and we continue to have a good relationship.
Maybe it will take time to build a relationship with these teachers?
So yes, I am excited about these new milestones and I know they will pass quickly, but in the meantime, should I be concerned? Should I be doing something differently?
When I arrive to pick up Fynn, I always watch him before he knows I’m there. I want to see how he plays during the day. And he looks better than when I drop him off, but still not comfortable which makes me wonder, “How long must I wait?”
I know we will get through this, but nobody likes to see their child troubled, hurting and unable to immediately fix it.
I can only hope for peace through this uncertain time and have patience that Fynn will soon settle in… that our worried hearts will soon be calm.
Because getting three people ready each morning is a task in and of itself without having my heart broken each morning that he doesn’t want to go to kindergarten.