When I found out I was going to have another baby, Will and I began to think about registering Elliott for kindergarten (or kiga, for short). Elliott is an active, social guy and I didn’t want to keep him cooped up in the house during the
fat last trimester of my pregnancy and early months with Lucy. We did our research, interviewed a few different kigas, picked our favorite and sent him to school last June.
We love Elliott’s kindergarten, and he does too. Currently he’s what’s called a Halbtagskind, a child who only stays at the kindergarten for half of the school day, but he would probably live there if he could. Putting him in school as a 1.5 year old has had countless pros: learning German, learning how to play with others, interaction with adults who aren’t his parents, increased understanding of the Austrian culture, multiculturalism, etc., etc. The only drawback, and we were warned many times beforehand, is the amount of illnesses that come and go in our house. Since June, Elliott and I have been sick 9 times. Will has been sick a grand total of 1 time, though his throat has been perpetually sore since July. Sometimes we just have bad colds, other times we have something terrible, like strep throat or laryngitis. As a result of our family coming down with all of the sicknesses his kindergarten has to offer on a near bi-weekly basis, we missed every single class party this year until last week, when we finally pumped ourselves full of enough vitamin C to get us to his Christmas party.
I was incredibly excited about the event. It was our chance to finally meet other parents, talk with his teachers and see Elliott interact with his friends. We were even assigned an item to bring – Aufstrichbrot – which, I learned through a surprisingly confusing conversation I had with my Austrian friend, is NOT the same as Aufstrichsbrot. (If there’s no /s/, then bring a loaf of bread with no spread. If there is an /s/, then bring sliced bread with spread already on it.) Faux pax averted!
The first half of the party was rough. Elliott, already confused about why we interrupted his nap to bring him back to school, was totally freaked out by the performance portion of the party. For the rest of his classmates, performing cute songs for their parents wasn’t an issue as many had done the stage fright dance before at previous parties, so they loudly slurred what we think were words in whatever pitch each individual child chose as instructed, while Elliott observed from behind our legs. He slowly surfaced when it came time to play instruments, which he proudly played from the sidelines. Then all was well and back to normal when his teachers broke out the food, and that’s how I know he’s my son.
He ran off to play with his friends while Will and I chatted with parents. It was such a wonderfully bizarre thing to do. It doesn’t happen too often, but occasionally I’ll be in the middle of an activity or conversation and think, How did I get here? How is this my life right now? Like, how is it that I’m a mom of two in Vienna, Austria making conversation in German with Austrian parents about the excellent values of the kindergarten? Wasn’t I just coordinating unfortunately themed weddings in Oklahoma?
As conversations began to wind down, we focused our attention back on Elliott who had made his way from the play kitchen to the arts and crafts table. He was accompanied by a little girl as well as his teacher who motioned for us to join them. I kneeled on the floor next to his teacher while Will prepared the camera for proof that Elliott does crafty things. While we observed him in his element, his teacher pointed at Elliott and the little girl and said, “Those two are best friends.”
Because I’m a person who feels very deeply about all things all the time, I probably would’ve teared up on the spot had I not told myself to keep it together because it might be seen as weird to get emotional about 2 year olds being best friends. But guys, I was so happy. Not that I was afraid he didn’t have any friends, but because I think from a parental standpoint, it’s nice and touching to know that there’s a tiny person who cares for your own tiny person. And also – I love that his best friend is a little girl with the most adorable pigtails I’ve ever seen.
Naturally Will and I wanted the scoop on these two so we pressed his teacher for further information, and this is what we learned:
“Yes, they’re the best of friends! They’re best friends because they’re my thinkers. The quiet ones. Their other classmates are very active and enjoy playing at different spots in the classroom, but these two will sit together and work on a craft for a long time before getting up to do something else.”
Will and I shared a look of bewilderment upon hearing this information. Surely she had the wrong kid. We were so surprised we asked her to repeat herself. Who is this quiet, thinking Elliott she speaks of? Our Elliott does not stop moving when he’s at home. Our Elliott also doesn’t stop talking when he’s at home. He sings “Hands, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as fast as can until he falls down. He builds with blocks just so he can make a tower of them fall over with a loud BOOM. We constantly have to remind him to use an inside voice so he won’t wake his baby sister. When he asks to color, he’s really asking me to color so he can play with the crayons. Whenever we chase him, aka the “get me!” game, he usually face-plants into a wall because he doesn’t watch where he’s going. His main technique of getting himself to sleep is to sing his latest favorite song at the top of his lungs.
It doesn’t add up.
Also – CRAFTS? He didn’t get that from me or his dad. We are the least of the least of the least crafty people we know.
But she assured us she was in fact talking about our son. She said another reason Elliott and his friend are drawn to each other is because of language. Neither Elliott or his girl friend are native German speakers, but they also don’t share English as a common language as she’s from Eastern Europe. His teacher said she wasn’t exactly sure how they figured out a way to communicate, but whatever it is, it works. They babble alongside each other and make each other laugh and smile without the foundation of a common language, which I find fascinating. And to make my heart swell even more, his teacher said that when one of them is missing, the other asks about them; and when one of them is sad or crying, the other is there to pet them or ask if they’re okay.
I went home that night with a full heart,
because we felt part of the community and accepted by the other parents
because our German, you know, functioned
because my little boy has a quiet spirit and an empathetic heart and a best friend
and because, apparently, my little boy willingly and gladly eats cucumbers at breakfast which is baffling news to my ears.
Is your child a different person at school? How did you handle the news? Tell me about it in the comments below 🙂