I still have lots of stories to recount from our recent trip to England, Scotland and Ireland, but I’m taking a break from that today for something much more immediate — school starts again next week. For Liam, this will be his first time going to school, but I suspect that his experience will be very unlike Benjamin’s. (B struggled through the first weeks and even months, taking a long time to adjust to being away from me. I give Liam 3 days before he’s running off without looking over his shoulder.)
They are both so excited. B can’t wait to see his friends and teachers again, and he is so excited to be a Vorschule Kind (kindergartener). Liam can’t wait to go to school “with Benjamin” (even though they will only see each other every so often, since they’re in different classes — I’ve tried to explain that to Liam, and I hope he understands). We’ve been busy with all kinds of preparations for going back to school, and this is the kind of stuff that’s always an extra challenge to do in German.
Over the weekend, we went shoe shopping — along with what seemed to be every other parent in Vienna. The shoe store was crowded with impatient parents and busy salespeople, and kids were leaving with lots of shoes. (We saw one girl leave with shoes, house shoes, rain boots, snow boots and socks. Busy day!) We were all a bit frustrated at the wait, but the kids were excellent. Once we’d gotten their feet measured, they each tried on just one pair of shoes they wanted (B chose his in the first minute we were in the store, while Liam had to consider the selection for a few moments) and declared themselves satisfied. We also got Liam his first pair of house shoes!
Today was for hair cuts. B is a seasoned expert, but it was Liam’s first salon haircut . . . and the English-speaking stylist was out, so we did it in German. B did great, selecting his desired hairstyle, climbing into the seat and sitting peacefully for his haircut. I was nervous about Liam — worried the stylist would cut off his curls, or that he’d become unruly and have to be left partly finished, or worse, that he’d squirm or thrash and get hurt. He was awesome about it, though — he sat quietly, followed instructions, tolerated the hair clips she used (to protect his curls!) and actually almost fell asleep near the end. The only person to get scolded all day was actually me — the stylist said, “Mama, nicht schneiden!” (Mom, don’t cut!) I’ve apparently been cutting the sides of his hair a bit short, and she’d like to let it grow out a bit. (No problem — I’m more than happy to retire my scissors. I’ll be the first to admit that I was unqualified, and also probably the most relieved.)
Over the next week, preparations will continue — we need to get house shoes for B, pack up ALL of the stuff for the first day (extra clothes, sunscreen, hats, diapers for Liam), choose outfits for the big day, and continue to prep Liam for the experience (both with regular information like how the day will go, plus a crash course in basic survival German). We’ve got a lot to do.
I’m excited because they’re excited, and because I truly believe that this is a great experience for both of them. B gets to be back with his friends, this time as one of the biggest fish in the pond, and learning more than ever. Liam gets to embark on a whole new adventure of friends, school, German, and playing outside . . . but all of it without me. I’m a little excited to have some free time for myself each day — not having to schedule my showers for only the hours when Dan is home, and being able to run errands unencumbered — but mostly, I don’t know what it will be like to be without either of my boys for part of the day. I’ve never done this since I’ve been a mom. It’s a strange sensation, and I’m hoping that a little more free time will be good for me (and thus, good for all of us).
It’s strange, too, to think about how different this week would be if we were living in the States right now. B would have gotten on the big, yellow school bus yesterday to start full day kindergarten (in English) while Liam stayed home with me. Having B at school for only half a day, with the same friends and teachers he already knows, feels right. Liam getting to go to school and experience this part of life in Austria, learning German and making friends, feels right, too. Right now, I think what we’re doing here is best for us. But for me, although getting some early “time off” will be nice (I didn’t expect to have free time until Liam starts kindergarten, in 2016), I doubt it will be as nice as spending the day with my little ones. I’m going to miss my guys.