In the interest of keeping you in the loop re: Axel’s fabulousness, here are some videos (he is really into hats) and a few photos…
September 1st… Fall seems to be arriving early in this neck of the woods. And school starts even earlier, in early August. Axel has now been attending a Krippe (daycare) part-time for almost a month.
It’s a pretty big change for him (and for me!), but they have a whole process that they go through here called Eingewöhnung (“acclimatization” or “familiarization”), which is a 2-week transitory period during which one of the parent is expected to be available and stay with the child, at least for the first few days. Perhaps they have something similar in the US or France? I have no idea, this is all new to me.
So the first day of school, parents (sometimes both parents) stay in a corner, trying to be as passive as possible, while the children explore their new surroundings and the Erzieherinnen (educators) go on a charm offensive to get the kids to warm up to them quickly. This goes on for a couple of hours, then that’s it for the day. On the third or fourth day, parents try going away for 15-20 minutes to see how each child reacts to being left with the educators. If there are tears, they try to comfort the kids, and if that doesn’t work, then the parent is brought back in and they try it again the next day.
The following week, the kids stay for a bit longer and the parents “disappear” for longer periods of time, until both educators and parents agree to try leaving the child for the entire time. Of course some parents simply can’t take time off to go through this process, so some kids have to deal with the new reality pretty abruptly. Also, reactions seem to vastly differ from child to child. Some kids understand the awful truth quickly and resist strongly, and spend a lot of time crying.
Others, like Axel, seem to whine mostly when their mothers are within sight, and apparently turn into complete angels when somebody else is in charge. So even though Axel is the youngest of the group (or maybe because of this) he’s adapted very quickly and has adopted the educators (and the new toys) without much fuss. Right now there are only 5 babies for 2 educators and an intern (a young man, Axel is best buddies with him already) — I’m told they are expecting 3 or 4 more children before the end of the year.
So all in all this has gone very smoothly. Axel doesn’t seem fazed by a third language being added to his day-to-day. The only problem we have is that he is forced to skip his morning nap, so he tends to be very tired when I pick him up. But I know all is well because when I drop him off in the mornings, he jumps out of my arms and excitedly toddles off without a look back… A page has definitely turned!
Axel spent the last weeks of his first year in Piedmont then Normandy, making him a Mediterranean then English Channel (Manche) Baby at the time.
He turned one July 18th, and so we are now quite late in making this post. Sorry. Still, Facebook was informed on time, with a schmattering of (one) photos.
The Chemery house in Normandy is decorated from top to bottom with delicate and refined collectables, dangling within Axel’s reach. Though we eventually confined him to a sort of medieval wooden cage (a device which has been passed down through many generations), he had many opportunities to destroy things and so he deserves credit for his good behavior.
Now we are back on the Baltic. Greifswald is transformed in the summer by the influx of sunshine and German tourists — actually, from what we’ve seen, all of Europe’s beachy spots seem popular with German tourists.
What’s new since 11 months? Lots of pretend talking. Dances a bit and is starting to show signs of singing. Spontaneous yoga sessions in front of washing machine (see FB). Shakes head for ‘no.’ Hates naps and getting his nails cut. Teeth count holding steady at 4; sporting a pronounced gap-look — almost space for a 5th between his top pair!
He’s still quite friendly with new people, though he doesn’t appreciate it when a stranger pounces on him with no introduction. Indeed, who does? Babies are people too.
Off the the beach. Take care.
Our friends Kate and Kyle came all the way from Switzerland to spend the weekend with us and it was so lovely to see them. Axel took an instant liking to them, which was a nice change from his habit of eyeing everyone new suspiciously.
At 11 months, he has long taken his first steps and will bravely launch himself from one set of waiting arms to another. He knows to fall onto his padded bottom now instead of head first onto some sharp corner so we are more relaxed about letting him spelunk.
Favorite toys include chewed up envelopes, boxes, measuring spoons and empty plastic bottles (and boy do we have a lot of those waiting to be recycled), so our apartment looks a bit like a landfill now. He wishes we would let him chew on cables (especially computer cable ends), swivel the TV and play with the toilet.
His vocabulary is still very centered on the letter “k”: “back,” “wacka wacka” and “paquet” (I call him un “petit paquet” sometimes). He
summons calls me “MAM!”, sometimes calls Gabe Dadad (though Gabe doubts this every time it happens).
Now that we read him books before bed, he has strong opinions about which books and particular pages we should spend time on. He bats impatiently at the page showing the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s cocoon (the one that really looks like doo-doo) and all the black-and-white ones in Goodnight Moon. His favorite book is, unfortunately for us, Le Noël de Tchoupi, which has lots of pop-ups and doors that can be destroyed. We need to acquire more books. And we need to import Kyle, the Baby-Whisperer:
Now that Axel is fully mobile and ready to conquer the world, we have been eager to find him a spot in some kind of daycare setting, where he could spend a bit of time with other children and adults and give a break to his poor mother.
Staying at home for at least the first year of your child’s life is a common cultural expectation in Germany, but for many parents, the choice is made for them. In Germany, only about 60% of women with children work outside the home vs. 80% in France. Finding a public daycare spot for children under 1 is extremely difficult. Finding a spot before they are 3 isn’t a piece of cake either. People sometimes have to use more expensive private daycare centers, often with a religious affiliation (though those are often fully-booked as well) or a so-called Tagesmutter (childminder/nanny), who cares for a handful of children at home, but again, vacancies are hard to come by and not everyone can afford this option.
Since we are in former East Germany, it ought to be easier to find childcare, because back in GDR days mothers were expected to work and the infrastructures are still in place for today’s parents.
Apparently, in the East, 36% of children under 3 are in daycare, vs only 3% in the West! Unfortunately for us, Greifswald is seemingly an exception to this, probably because it has in recent years attracted many young families and the number of daycares hasn’t kept up. I was turned down by every single daycare I contacted (one was offering to put Axel on a waiting list for September… 2013! Gasp! And I know waiting lists can be even longer). Finally, rather miraculously, one of them contacted me back and said they did have one spot after all for August, and did I want it? You betcha! I crossed my fingers that the daycare center would be decent enough, and …. after a visit and a thumbs up by Axel (he was extremely interested by everything), it’s a go! This is the place that he will attend in August:
First I will have to go to city hall and apply for the daycare hours that my particular situation entitles me to. Since I’m not working, I will be able to get no more than 4 hours/day (which is a bit of a Catch-22… The way I see it, I can’t show proof of a full-time job unless I have full-time care, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there). At the very least I’ll be able to sign up for some German classes, which I sorely need. For those who are curious, the cost will be 100 Euros a month plus the cost of lunch (about 40 Euros a month). Coming from the US, this seems like a complete bargain of course.
Germany realizes things must change and is in the process of implementing new laws that would garantee a daycare spot to any child over 1 (how that will happen logistically is anyone’s guess). Right now, any child who is at least 3 years of age is guaranteed a spot. The idea is to boost the historically low birth rate and help poorer families by making it easier for parents who work to find care for their children. One way to do this is to develop state daycares. Another way is to help make up for the lost wages that a parent experiences when they stay home to care for their child.
And this will be the subject of the next post! Stay tuned.
Axel made big progress. Suddenly he sorta crawls. Before he oozed from one place to another, never moving when observed but somehow here then there. He is standing and taking steps too with a new sense of authority. Crawl or walk, there’s no way to tell which he’ll really get first. Big progress on locomoting.
His first word is officially “Book.” There’s the question of whether it should really count because he doesn’t use it consistently to refer to actual books. Really its not clear that he gets “representation” at all. But there’s no doubt he says it with purpose. He also likes other single syllable “words” like gock, book, dat, tat. He laughs at the drawn-out soft “ch” sound in the German “nicht.” Lisa wonders whether english is sticking more than french right now. German will be a strong competitor, especially when he starts with day care. Actually, sometimes he sounds like he’s speaking Ewokese. Google says “chesl manna manna” means bring food.
Did we mention he has been accepted to day care? This was tricky. It’s real competitive around here. Lots of eligible babies. Lisa is in tingles about it. She says that it’s not official… but just between us friends…
Grandpa Chemery (“Nono”) made an appearance in Greifswald just days ago. See pictures below. It was a big treat for Axel. Also for us — we hired a sitter from an agency and went out to dinner for the first time … and then for the second time. Greifswald was on its best behavior, with plenty of sun and only a dash of rain. Nono’s request for more grandchildren seems to indicate that the early wake-up calls and car shrieking didn’t traumatize him too much.
On the way back home, we often stop to get some vegetables and fresh eggs on the Platz, where the farmer’s market can be found three times a week. I’m always stuck by how majestic the Platz is; it seems almost too big for a town this size.
Sometimes, if it’s not too windy, we walk by the Ryck river, through the Museum Harbor to look at the boats and bicyclists.
There are also so many things to explore in the area, I really wish Axel was more portable! Copenhagen is not far, Berlin and Hamburg are only a couple of hours away, and Germany’s two biggest islands, Rügen and Usedom are very popular summer destinations… They sure look pretty:
Of course the Baltic Sea is right there, too. Now that the temperatures are milder, we will soon see how Axel likes frolicking on the beach.
In fact, I think the only thing (and admittedly, it’s a pretty big thing) that I’m finding to be a real problem about this town is the fact that it’s so remote. It’s just feels out of the way, and traveling with a baby is just no fun. I would love it if we could transport Greifswald somewhere a bit closer to the French-German border!