Friday, March 14, 2014

Simon's 4....and it's a REALLY Big Deal!

How did this happen? When did this happen? Just yesterday I swear I had this cute little toddler, and now I am the mama of a real little boy. Who is 4 YEARS OLD!!
Birthday morning...cakes and pressies!
And it really is a big deal. I am not just saying it in that mama way that every birthday is a big deal. Which it is. I mean it's a REALLY BIG DEAL. Why? Because we live in the Netherlands. And what does that have to do with anything? Well, in the Netherlands kids start school at age 4. At age 4. The day after they turn 4 they start school. So, yes. Throughout the year, there are kids starting all the time, as they turn 4.

Birthday boy biking home! (1.5 miles)
So let me explain a few things as I understand them. First, let's just talk about the word school. I have found that every country has a different system, they have different words for the same things, but in the end they are all quite similar. In the US, it seems everyone is sending their kids to "school" from about age 1. Fine. In Germany, kids go to Kindergarten from 3-6. And in Sweden, kids attend dagis up until they turn 6. But in all of these systems, around the age of 6, kids start what would be considered the formal education system and something like 1st Grade.
Ready for school!
It's really the same here. Simon is in Groep 1-2. This means that Groeps 1 and 2 are combined, so it includes kids from 4-6. It is similar to preschool or kindergarten, and focuses on playing, social interaction, and introducing the kids to a bit more structure. But here, it's school. Simon's school, De Kleine Reus (The Little Giant), has more than 500 students up to the age of 12. It's the real deal.

I have to admit that leading up to Simon starting school, I was a bit nervous. I am always telling other mamas not to worry about their kids learning the language, it's so easy for young children, etc. But I found when it came to my own little man, I had some anxiety. Admittedly I am projecting my adult conscious onto his experience, trying to imagine being thrown into a room of nearly 30 peers who I really want to like me, but with whom I cannot verbally communicate. It sounds so intimidating, and it has given me a whole new respect as to how brave my little man is.
First day!!
That isn't to say that has been easy, but Simon seems quite happy. He had been going to a Dutch creche two days a week for 6 months, so I know that he has some understanding of the language. We are a week and a half into school right now, and he isn't so keen on me leaving him. But he does let me leave. And when I pick him up he is happy and full of energy, so I know that it's a happy place for him. Kids are so resilient, and I hear him saying new words every day. Wow. He is so strong and brave. I admire him so much.

But I can see that it's not easy for him. When I picked him up on Tuesday I saw a sad little boy. When his eyes met mine he burst into the saddest tears I can ever remember seeing. I, too, was close to tears on seeing this. But when I bent down to find out what had happened, he told me, "I can't find my pink star." So while that is quite sad, it was a lot better than, "Some boy pushed me on the playground" or "They were mean to me today." Of course, I can see how losing this pink star could be symbolic of deeper challenges. Did he show it to someone who took and didn't give it back? And then he didn't know how to ask for it back? Oh how the mind wonders...

And he also hasn't gone to the bathroom at school. And I am not talking #2. Just potty. I ask him every day and he says, "I don't speak Dutch," or, "I don't know how to ask." That's tough. But he'll learn. He is so strong and brave.

I am proud of my son. So very proud of him. And so I took him to Kirmes on Wednesday, our day off for now, and spoiled him rotten.

 Oh, and Ebba is doing just fine. Thanks for asking. She's 4.5 months - and quite a cute little peanut.


  1. As a kid who went to all kinds of schools where she didn't speak the language (French/Arabic preschool in Tunisia, for example), I know that young children especially are super adaptable. And look how great I turned out (twitch, twitch)! Now if I could only remember a word of that Arabic...

    1. Thanks for the encouragement E! You are the perfect example - and you don't seem too damaged. ;)