The Hypothetical Eleventh Month Fuck-Stop

What a week.

Take my advice: If you’ve got young children and you are planning to have more, stop fucking at the start of November and don’t reconvene until January.

The timing of late July/early August for being heavily pregnant and giving birth is less than ideal. Not only are you going to mess up your summer holiday by having to wait for your latest offspring to be born, but your children’s school year will be drawing to a close when you’re at your most docile and lethargic. The time is packed with activities, end of year parties and emotional farewells. Each brings with it its own set of chores and responsibilities, such as cooking, buying presents, etc.

Swimming lessons, guitar lessons, gymnastics class, Little Gym, choir… all ended in the last few days; well, choir was actually a few days before that, heralding the climax to come.

This week was show week at the Little Gym, which is a lesson in which all of the parents are allowed into the class to watch the children demonstrate what they have learned during the semester. The whole family therefore made the trip twice this week, once for Eloïse and once for Lucas.

Eloïse’s school broke up on Thursday. She has graduated from the kleuterschool (a kleuter is a child aged roughly 4 to 6, for which there isn’t a good English equivalent) and will start after the summer in the eerste klas (first class). The Geert Groote School is a Steiner school and the numbering of the years is different to that used by other Dutch schools. The eerste klas is the equivalent of groep drie (group three) in other schools. There’s a clear separation in Steiner schools of young children from children who are ripe for traditional academic learning, so when Eloïse returns in September, there will be an initiation ceremony attended by all of the children in the school, during which the new eerste klassers will be welcomed by all of the older children and pass through an archway of arms.

Anyway, saying farewell to Eloïse’s kleuterjuf was an emotional experience. She has meant so much to Eloïse and therefore to us, too. Eloïse has thrived in her care, become self-confident and is now prepared to enter the next phase of school life. I must have blubbered about ten times in the course of last Thursday. I thought Sarah would be the emotional one, with me taking the piss a bit, but she managed to stay dry while I experienced one wave of emotion after the other. Contagious pregnancy hormones, perhaps?

All of the older children, who are moving on to the eerste klas, were given a bead by the children they are leaving behind. The beads form a pretty necklace and memento of their time in the kleuterklas. The tears are coming again, even as I type this. Eloïse might be ready for the eerste klas, but I’m not sure I am. She’s taking it in her stride, but I’m watching my little girl irrevocably close one chapter of her young life and start another. Words fail me to describe how immensely proud of her I am.

Yvette was presented with a book full of photos of the children who are moving on, together with a CD of them singing the songs she taught them. There was song and dance, and the children put on a presentation of Doornroosje (Sleeping Beauty).

At the end of it all, Eloïse emerged from the class, wearing a crown. All of the children had been crowned an eerste klasser that morning in a private ceremony not attended by the parents. She brought with her a folder containing all of her artwork over the last year. Needless to say, browsing through it later in the day had be sobbing like a man bereaved.

Happily, our goodbye to juffie Yvette will be temporary, as Lucas will be starting in her class some time in 2012. And then there’s a third child on the way, of course. It’s at time like this that you realise that you’re absolutely not finished having children.

Lucas’s peuterschool (a peuter is a child aged roughly 2 to 4), Het Speelhol, broke up a day later on Friday. His school year culminated in the Indiananpicnick in the Amsterdamse Bos. Amazingly, it remained almost completely dry, which I wouldn’t ordinarily consider noteworthy in July, but the weather here lately has been dreadful.

At the start of this year, we didn’t even know if Het Speelhol would make the end of the school year. It was threatened with closure by all of the government cuts, but thanks in no small part to the efforts of the parents, we received enough local government funding to remain open for another year. After that, who knows? We’ll have to come up with a new plan of action.

Anyway, I’ll finish the way I started, with a few comments on the wisdom of a summer birth.

Laura, our midwife, returned from holiday yesterday, so that’s a relief. I think Sarah had been suffering some stress over the thought of going into labour without a midwife (in which case, we would have had Laura’s back-up, whom we’ve never met, so that wouldn’t have been ideal), so it’s good to have Laura back in-country.

The atrocious July weather at least means it’s cool in the house, which is ideal for Sarah, who is almost always too hot. I can recall the sweltering birth of Eloïse in our Californian bedroom on a particularly hot day in May as if it was yesterday.

Sarah was much more stressed by the thought of missing out on Eloïse’s graduation, which was, indeed, probably the most momentous occasion for the whole family since the birth of Lucas. The move to the eerste klas is actually a bigger one than the (physical) move from peuterspeelzaal (playschool) to basisschool (primary school), because of the fundamental shift in emphasis from play to learning. There’s some overlap, of course, but the shift in emphasis is a strong one.

There are advantages to a summer birth, too; some of which are a double-edged sword. With the end of the school year, we now have few obligations. Our days are blissfully free of slavish adherence to a timetable. On the other hand, that means there are two children around the house who need to be kept busy. They’re very good at keeping each other busy, of course, but six weeks is a long time to be away from school with no prospect of a summer holiday. Never before have we remained in the Netherlands for the summer. And if the weather is going to stay like this in the weeks ahead, we’re going to have to be very creative.

Assuming the weather improves, it will be nice to be able to go out with a new baby in warm, dry weather. Sarah will also be able to recuperate at her own pace, without the urgency of an alarm clock bringing her shuddering abruptly into the day. Of course, Lucas usually beats the alarm clock to the wake-up call and he has no off-switch, so my main task this summer is going to be keeping our existing children out of Sarah’s hair as she concentrates on the new baby and her own recovery.

We’re 38 weeks and 1 day into the pregnancy now. Both Eloïse and Lucas were born within seven days of now, so the excitement is really building.

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