Wouldn’t it be great if the story ended at my last post? Stocked kitchen, great first day of school, happily ever after. Ah, but this is real life, so here’s a real update; Sometimes, this trip sucks.
Firstly, school. This is the real heart breaker here. The kids had a great first day, yes, but then reality set in. Teachers here are not the caring, empathetic teachers we are used to back home. The attitude conveyed is “I’m not here to teach you, I’m here to make you do it.” in fact, that comes very close to a quote from an actual teacher who said to one of my children “Don’t ask me for help, thats what your friends are for” Excuse us, but we’ve always believed that’s actually what teachers are for. Different cultures, fair enough, we are perfectly happy to assimilate, thats why we’re here, but it’s very difficult for my daughter to sit there and watch kids multiply (by memory) in the triple digits. That we can work on at home, no biggie, but calculating volumes when she’s never been introduced to the connects being used, a little harder. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m not saying we wont try our best, what I AM saying is it’s a very difficult thing to be the only one to feel totally lost in class, and when you try to understand, your teacher tells you to just work on your cursive writing instead, because you are so slow and awful at it. Not the kind, goal setting, encouraging teaching my kids have grown to thrive in. So, we try. Kaylee tries her best in school, has moments where she has to excuse herself to cry in the bathroom, and tries again. She comes home with regular homework, extra french homework (For students who use french as a second language), and then on top of that we work on math. I had fully intended to supplement Canadian Social Studies according to our Alberta curriculum, but honestly, that might end up being our summer homeschooling, as it is right now, schoolwork is taking up all hours of the weekdays and doesn’t leave much time for exploring, shopping and experiencing culture.
Kaleb had great feedback the first 4 days, I would ask how his day was, he would say good, or great, or fun, or awesome. I would ask about lunch, he would tell me about everything that he ate, and everything that he’d try, but not finish, who he sat with, what they joked about. I would ask about recess and he would tell me all the games he played, all the running, jumping etc. that he loved. Three recesses that are actually a decent amount of time has to be one of his favourite parts of school. His teacher let him have a few days to get to know the kids, and them let him pick who to sit with, of course he picked the other two english speaking kids in his class, he feels safe and happy with them, and the fact that the are fluent in both english and french is helpful. I thought maybe they placed him more appropriately according to his needs and abilities. Then, after a conversation with Kaylee one day I asked him the question I’d apparently missed all along: “Have you ever cried at school?” “Everyday. Probably two, maybe three times a day” Enter chest pain and suddenly moist eyeballs. Well, he always has been an overly sensitive, hot headed kid, I never did get an estimate of how often he cried in his Canadian school, but I was under the impression it was not 2 or 3 times daily. He cries because he doesn’t understand things, he cries because he feels like he tries so hard (“harder than ever before”) and it isn’t anywhere near good enough. He cries because he fails to properly understand instructions and feels like he’s constantly messing up.
It’s interesting the wildly different feedback I get from my two kids who are experiencing the same things. We will continue to try and adapt and change with out new environment, school has never been a back burner priority for us, an dI imagine it will continue to be difficult. One thing is for sure, I can’t continue to allow Kaylee to push herself so hard. I don’t want to normalize the kind of pressure she’s currently putting on herself. It’s one thing to put in some extra effort and study hours to get “Caught up” It’s another thing completely to spend every waking hour consumed with “Not failing” at school. We’ll need to find some balance somewhere in that mess.
Another thing that sucks? Not having my husband as backup. I knew I’d miss him, that part is obvious, but the part that sucks is now it’s often 2 vs 1. I don’t have him there to say “No, this chicken soup full of vegetables is awesome, and it’s some of the best broth you’ve ever made!” instead I hear “Do I have to? I don’t like it” and so far, everything I have made for dinner, while I find delicious , the kids have whined and complained about. It sucks, I work hard in this place with weird shopping, crappy pots and pans and no oven, I need somebody to appreciate me, I never realized how far my husbands “MMmm”s at the dinner table truly went.
Want to know what else sucks? Apartment living. A few years ago Jason and I moved into our first house from a townhouse style condo. While Jason still loves it very much (ok, I still love it too), I realized pretty quickly we don’t need it. It was a lot of money, for a lot of space, for a lot of maintenance. I always said to Jason, I was perfectly happy to go old together in our house, and I loved our new community so, so, so much, but if he ever wanted to, I would move back into a townhouse no problem, as long as it had a yard and a garage. I stand by that. Our little two bedroom apartment is all we need, ok maybe three (eventually my kids will be teenagers and I imagine the last night giggle fests will end) but it is missing one crucial thing, a YARD. Or even a nearby park, one that allows you to be on the grass! Wearing the kids out when it’s not a school day has proven an incredibly difficult task. We walk EVERYWHERE, we don’t bus (yet), but living in such a central area, the farthest we’ve had to go yet has been a 15 minute walk, so 30 there and back. Not enough, even three times a day. We do a bit of body weight exercises and stretching in our apartment on our yoga mat, but the kids hate it and to be honest, so do I. There are not a lot of green spaces nearby, the closest “Parc” is a few blocks away on a historical property, it would be an amazing space, if it weren’t for the fact that the grass (Read 90% of it) was off limits. So when the kids run there, they are confined to a tiny, single file dirt path that goes around the yard. Fun. Off the side of this property is a playground. The playground consists of 3 small rocking toys, two benches and a concrete area that is mostly used for soccer. Fun. The first time we went there, I couldn’t believe the confidence my son had. He walked right up to adult men with soccer balls and asked “Est-ce que Je peux jouer aussi?” And he did, he ran around with them, kicked, passed, showed off some moves and wore himself out, it was awesome and I was so proud of him. I decided to by him a ball and it took three day, yes THREE days of looking in every sports store, every toy store I could find on google before I found a small soccer ball. Uninflated. Where they didn’t sell pumps. And didn’t know where I could find one. Fun. I did find a bouncy style kicking ball, and bought it for him. This ball has brought out some interesting coping mechanisms in my son. He’s named the ball, he talks to the ball, he reads to it, tucks it in and doesn’t let anybody else touch his ball. It’s a cheap ball, eventually it’s going to pop and Kaleb’s soul will be completely crushed, but for now it’s his thing, and since I moved him to a new continent and threw him straight into an entirely different culture, I’ll let this one go. How do I wear my kids out when the weather sucks, there’s nowhere to play and we are still unfamiliar with the area? We find the local pool. After hours of searching I found ONE pool in the city. Open only during school hours, closed after school, weekends and school holidays, Fun. I asked one of the smoking moms at school (did i mention all the moms smoke, all the time? like, with their children? so weird) how she keeps her kids active, she told me they leave the city. Fun.
You know what? F it, we’re going to climb a mountain.