The German word for daycare is ‘Krippe’ which sounds a lot like the English word ‘crypt.’ This seems fitting, somehow. Both places are stuffy, confining, and full of the ‘unknown.’
Oh, and can I also say that both are scary?
I’m obviously going to have a really hard time in August. I’ve been with this baby just about every waking moment of her life so far. The idea of dropping her off all day long at a daycare center where she doesn’t even speak the language is terrifying. I know, babies pick up languages fast. I’ve seen it happen. Back when I worked at a daycare center a little Russian twelve-month old came in and spoke fluent English approximately five hours later.
But—this is my baby. Until we’re months in the future and I see she’s doing fine, I’m going to dread this whole thing.
The other source of fear comes from the fact we, um, haven’t exactly found a Krippe, yet? Oops?
As I’ve been told once or twice, I am a top-notch procrastinator. When something I don’t want to do comes along, I can effectively convince myself it doesn’t exist. If it really insists on stressing me out, I just churn up some other, more badass thoughts and have them hold the head of whatever’s bothering me underwater until it drowns. (It’s my one violent act, I swear.)
If nothing else, procrastination causes lots of problems and problems make for good stories. So, in that sense I should keep going?
But just maybe not with Krippes.
So what, exactly, does a German Krippe have in store for us? I don’t know too much about them, yet, but I’m sure I’ll have lots of posts to eventually add to the category of this name.
I do know of some differences from American daycares. For example, rather than juice they apparently serve lots of tea. I don’t know why I find this so surprising. I guess it’s because I don’t think I had my first cup of tea until I was sixteen. Probably healthier than juice, though, right?
It’s also a lot cheaper over here than in the States, thank God. Whereas everyone I know with children in the States is paying out the majority of their salaries just for childcare, all of the places we’ve casually looked at cost anywhere from 180-300 Euros a month. Food included. That’s because they’re subsidized by the State.
There are some interesting options as I’ve heard of German daycares (and Kindergartens) that are located in the woods. Apparently there are no buildings and the kids are outside all day, every day, no matter what the season. Just…living in the woods. I don’t know much more about this, but plan to check it out because it reminds me of my favorite book when I was a pre-teen (My Side of the Mountain.) In the book this kid gets all Emo and runs away from home. He hollows out a tree and actually lives inside the thing. For years, I desperately wanted to live inside of a hollowed out tree. I still do, sort of, so that might be cool!
Finally, I won’t be surprised if safety regulations are just a little more…relaxed.
In the States you get everything from cameras so parents can observe what’s going on, to ratios of teachers to kids that are so close there’s at least one adult limb available for each child. Heights are off limits, things that make you choke are barred, running is not encouraged.
Here it’s a bit different.
I’ve been told that German childcare centers are not held liable for injuries (not sure if that’s true. But, I like to spread rumors.) Kids are left just a bit freer to test their own boundaries, to climb, to play without adult eyeballs always following things and without adult mouths putting the kibosh on all things dangerous.
To an extent, I see that at my school. Every day at recess the school empties out and all two hundred kids run free behind the school in a play area that includes a soccer pitch, a jungle gym, a wooden tipi, a basket swing, a rooftop of the gym accessible by stairs, a tree, a sand box, and a lot of other fun play-places I don’t feel like listing right now.
Four teachers (myself included) head out, rain or shine, and hope that no one fatally injures themselves. It’s sometimes hard to know where to look, or rather where not to look because it might just give me a heart attack. There’s the basket swing with six kids on it, swinging so high it’s about to do a complete loop over the top. There’s the five year olds stuck up in a tree. There’s the second grader trying to get in on a game of soccer with the tenth graders.
I just pace and do everything I can to have eyeballs in my pores.
Everyone else is totally relaxed about it and, if I’d grown up here, I’m sure I would be, too. But, I’m from Murica! Where I come from people would take one look at this and file lawsuits before anything even happened!
Anyway, the biggest difference that I know of so far is that parents don’t just drop their kids off on the first day and leave for eight hours, hoping the kid survives the ordeal. There’s something known as the Eingewoehnung (which means Acclimation in English.) I’ve heard this time period can take anywhere from two weeks to two months depending on the center and how your child does.
From what I understand, the first day a parent accompanies the child to daycare and both stay for only fifteen minutes. The next day is the same thing. On day three, the parent stays for fifteen minutes and then says goodbye before leaving for ten minutes. After that, the parent leaves for a half hour. (And by ‘leave,’ I mean they sit in another room so they’re very close by in case the child has a meltdown.) This goes on, daily, until the child is comfortable enough to spend the whole day at the care center.
On one hand, I really like this idea! Like I said, I worked at a daycare center for several years and—if I remember correctly—there was nothing like this? I mean, a parent might come by with their child prior to starting out at the center and check out the room, introduce their child, stay for a little while, etc. But, there was nothing formal in place. For the most part they’d show up on the first day of care, drop off their kid, hurry away to avoid the sound of them shrieking in confusion and anxiety, and show up nine hours later with the type of sick look on their face that suggested they’d been tortured by that sound all day long and didn’t get any work done.
It wasn’t easy for the kids, either. I remember one two year old I worked with who developed all these little quirky coping mechanisms to get through the day. He had to have a picture of his mother in his left jean’s pocket, and a glove in his right jean’s pocket. If either one wasn’t available for him to touch, he freaked. I’m betting this Acclimation period could have really helped him out.
As far as our situation goes, the only problem–and this is my fault—is that even if we find a daycare center before I start work on August 16 (I think that’s the date) we are visiting family in the States until August 2. That only leaves two weeks available for this Eingewoehnung period, and I have a feeling that won’t be acceptable to whatever daycare center does or doesn’t accept us.
Now, I have tried to some extent. (Here’s the part where I defend myself.)
I’m just not entirely familiar with the system and what on earth I’m supposed to be doing. Story of my expat life.
Apparently, I should have been putting myself on waiting lists for a daycare center back when I was pregnant. I didn’t know this out until Laken was already several month’s old.
I imagined that Todd and I would be able to go out and visit many different centers and I’d get to ask all the overprotective, paranoid questions first-time mothers get to ask, like: if Laken cries, how long will you cuddle her? Or, if a child bites my daughter, how quickly will you test them for rabies? We’d get to conduct interviews and make slow eliminations like a Reality TV show before coming to an ultimate decision about which one seemed to be the best fit for Laken.
But, it doesn’t work that way.
For one thing, you have to try and stay in your own suburb. So, rather than having all of Heidelberg to explore, I need to stick to Eppelheim because that’s where we have priority to get a spot.
I looked around here, but there’s only five centers. Three are in churches and already full. One of them might potentially have a spot but appears to be in a trailer that’s as big as my bathroom. The final one looks amazing—super fun playground and smiley parents walking in and out every time we pass by–but apparently they have a waiting list that resembles Red Lobster’s on a Saturday night.
But it’s all a moot point, anyway. According to what I’ve read on the web site www.kitas.de (where you put yourself on these waiting lists) all of the daycares in Eppelheim are only open to babies two years old and up.
Heh? So where do the itty-bitty Eppelheim-ian babes go? I don’t get it.
I found another web site where you can register for Krippes that seem to accommodate babies. They listed all of the available suburbs and, wouldn’t you know it, every last suburb in the area was listed—except Eppelheim.
I eventually added Laken to a bunch of waiting lists, anyway, and included a little footnote in butchery German about the fact that we live in Eppelheim and I’m Amerikanisch and have no idea what the hell I’m doing. That’ll win us a spot, I’m sure.
The only Krippe we’ve made a real effort with and have an actual chance with, at this point, is literally two blocks away from the school I teach at.
It’s called Mary Poppins and we not only put ourselves on the waiting list; we went to visit it a few months ago as well.
Pros? It’s a Krippe. As for getting a spot, they said that it might work to our benefit that I work two blocks away because then I can come get her if she does anything diarrheal.
Cons? It’s a Krippe. I don’t want to send my baby anywhere. I also didn’t get the whole ‘Spoon Full of Sugar’ feeling when I was in there.
The center has a mixed age group concept, as must Krippes do, so Laken would be in with other kids ages one to three.
The babies sleep in a room filled with cribs that are fit closely together. I really had trouble imagining Laken getting a decent nap in there, especially given that she’s currently used to being breastfed to sleep while listening to her sound machine play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
There was a cool gym area that had all kinds of gigantic rubber balls and equipment, but the kids only visit it once a week.
The outside play area was teeny.
The lady led us to the bathroom area where there were something like fifty plastic cups holding toothbrushes and for some reason this depressed me.
Is this normal to feel like this? Someone please tell me it is.
The thing is, Laken is probably going to do just fine. She is a people person and especially adores being around other babies or kids. She’s going to love every moment of this. It’s just me who is having a bit of trouble facing the upcoming changes.
As for finding a Krippe, I’ve been told that if you can’t find a spot, the government gives you an allotment of money to help with the costs of hiring a babysitter or Tagessmutter during the day until you do get in. This sounds like a generous and wonderful benefit. But, how on earth does one pursue that?
That’s how it feels to be an expat, sometimes.