There’s no other time of year that we anticipate with as much dread and hope. The furrowed brows and heavy sighs began during what should have been care free summer days. The weight of the new school year is heavy on all of us. The kids, for the fear of the unknown, made so much scarier by the language that doesn’t yet allow them to feel at ease. Wishing them easy happiness, these weeks make us question and second guess every decision we’ve made in this journey, hoping against hope that their burden isn’t too heavy.
We are now two weeks in, by no means out of the woods, but getting a little bit lighter in our steps.
Diego, in grade 7, has started what the Swiss know as high-school; where they begin to be streamed into their future career path. A path of academics or a path towards trades. Diego is happily resting in the middle with all options still open for him. No added pressure of an intense academic schedule, which proves to be way too much for many kids here, so we’re told. But also the knowledge that he can still direct his path at this stage. Crazy to think that for some, these are their final 3 years.
And for Helena, she needs to find her place with a new group of kids, at a school in our immediate neighbourhood. A new batch of kids, beginning their next 3 years as classmates. A fresh beginning. We have such high hopes for this year for her, that she will find a special friend and a true sense of belonging.
It’s what we hope for them both, knowing that just 1 friend can make all the difference in the world.
Preparing for the new school year is a tricky time. We are lucky if we get through it with any semblance of financial security. There’s a high probability that we will say yes to pretty much any request the kids make. A pony, a Ferrari, you name it. Parental guilt has a remarkable way of opening the wallets. The kids are worried? Let’s throw some sugar and money at them.
This year though, I found a new method of helping alleviate their fears, or at least their school related fears. It’s a strategy, albeit questionable, involving introducing a new set of fears, thus distracting from the original fears.
This wasn’t a premeditated switch in strategy on my part but more of a happy accident. Without the happy… So just an accident really.
Part of our daily routine, as much as we can prioritize it, is to go for walks. It fills our cups and has a way of allowing the worries to quiet and the words in our minds to find a kinder tone. It is good for the mind, body & soul. Usually…
(Like this video for instance when our walk in the woods had a mysterious, lovely soundtrack to accompany it.)
On one particular walk during the angst filled days before school, it was just H and I. (I try to give each kid a one-on-one walk, taking turns throughout the week.) We decided to venture a new direction, embracing an ethos of seeking new experiences and views.
We can find amazing forest trails within moments from our house. We usually go to the forest on the left. This time we went right. You weave through a lovely cemetery on the way to this forest. We have often wandered there, it is very pretty and reflective.
This time it was later in the evening and as happens, the daylight has become shorter. We came upon a staircase, leading down, underground. Sort of like access to an underground parkade. But there were fancy glass doors at the bottom and we were curious. We were surprised to find the doors unlocked, despite the late hour, opening to a chapel-like space. An underground chapel. With lots of doors off the foyer. Hmmm, what could be behind those doors?
In an act of parental responsibility, I held the door (having a little too much experience with becoming locked into unwanted places by accident) and sent H in further to explore. “Go see what’s behind the doors Sweetie.”
And she did.
And she came flying out, eyes wide in panic, unable to quite form the words she needed.
“Dead people!! There’s dead people in there!!!”
Turns out I inadvertently sent my 9yr old alone into a mortuary.
Every now and then I regret the lack of progress my German language skills have made. This was one of those moments. The clearly marked sign at the entrance stated that it was a mortuary. Turns out that isn’t a word that is a part of my German vocabulary.
“Well how about that. I bet you’ve completely forgotten about starting school now. You’re welcome.”
Sometimes I surprise myself by how much I’m nailing this parenting thing.
While not seeking nightmare inducing moments for the kids, we’ve been filling our days with low-key exploring and visits with family.
And slowly but surely the tiny voice inside saying “I’m ok, I’ll be fine” starts to be heard again.
A festive mood in Zurich helped to distract from the worries as well.