Tales from the Krippe

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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?

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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!

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Picture from an actual Waldkrippe web site. I still don’t quite get how the concept works–but it’s neat.

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!

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This is one more reason why teachers deserve to earn more than they do.

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.

Uh oh.

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.

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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.

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Different daycare, same crib situation.

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?

I’m clueless.

That’s how it feels to be an expat, sometimes.

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13 thoughts on “Tales from the Krippe

  1. I grew up in a system like that and for all I can remember the all-day-kindergarten years were some of the best from my early childhood! I laughed at the “lots of tea” instead of juice comment!! We knew lemon juice and that’s all lol we drank tea every morning with a slice of toast smeared with butter…I tell you even though it sounds like child abuse I WILL ALWAYS have in my mind the taste of that tea (which to this day I have no clue what it was, I tried to find it) and the way the bread crumbled all over my shirt when I took bites out of it! and also the way the halls smelled like bleach! we were fully high on fumes, but germ free!

    The cribs!! omg they were so much fun (sarcasm included) lol one time I got to nap next to the teacher’s daughter and she was a BITER…omg the bruises.. at one point mom taught I did that to myself looking for attention because I had to many on my arms!

    Mom has a great story and she tells everyone that by the time I was 3 something she would take me in early morning and I would get so antsy and start tapping my feet and used to say “com’on undress me quickly, quickly, so I can go play!” at 7AM!!! during winter months I used to yell at her that she takes me out in the streets in the middle of the night… Ya, it was that much fun!

    At that time (1985), I don’t think mom took more than a few of months off of work, then my dad’s mom stayed with me during the day, until I was a yr and a half old and they shipped me to my grandma at the farm! Grandma said I was just over 2 years old, and I would sit up on the woodpile, watch at the planes and call for my mom to come get me and say “com’, com’ I’m he’ at ma’ ‘toia (come, come I’m here at ma’ Victoria)”… That year mom came back in August and I went into kindergarten in September (I was 2.5 yrs old)

    Oh and the rain free mentality and “we’re not responsible for accidents” I get to see it clearly!! I can’t say we were spanked for misbehaving, but we knew stern voice means business when we heard it, else mom or dad would let us know about it at home. My knees looked like I walk on glass with them. I had scratched all over my arms from tree climbing. my forehead has two big bumps (one left and one right) from god-knows what I hit and mom used to tell me if I keep misbehaving horns will start growing like they do for the goats!

    I guess I don’t have any good advice lol sorry :S I wanted to share this with you and maybe it will settle your nerves a bit 🙂 Laken might not remember much until she turns about 3… flashback memories for me start at about that time, with the tea and toast party, the little bitter asshole, and I remember faces of some of my teachers (guardians) from 5-6 years old that I really liked. Romania has its kids go to first grade at 7, so from 2.5 to 6.5 I was in all-day kindergarten (diff levels too). They have a saying “7 years from home” which means in those 7 years you ought to learn respect, manners, maybe to count and read a bit (at least know the letters and numbers). They would go over it AGAIN of course, but the teacher had that expectation. It was said that ‘you lack the 7 years from home’ if you were misbehaving.

    Good luck and hope it all turns out alright! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an awesome comment–thank you so much! Actually, everything you said made me feel SO MUCH better. I never really understood why moms get all weepy when their kids go to daycare, but now I’m starting to get it! Anyway, one of my favorite images was when you described the cribs and you made it sound more like a fun time than a chaotic nap. I also hear you on the bumps and bruises! I actually like this rein free mentality a lot more than the over the top protectiveness that you see more often than not in the States. I had all kinds of scrapes and bruises as a kid, but I also had the time of my life! In a way, it’s probably the best enforcer of what hurts and what doesn’t (as long as it’s not too dangerous.) Ah childhood…I don’t have that many memories of daycare or even being younger than three, but I do remember eating this clay we made once (out of peanut butter) and I got in trouble for eating some of it. 🙂 Other than that, my memories don’t really pick up until I was five. I was lucky enough to have a ton of kids on the street I grew up on. we’d all head outside in the morning and stay out together until the street lights came on. We had the span of six or seven houses to work with and found so many things to do…it never got boring! Anyway, you definitely settled my nerves a bit and I loved hearing your stories! Your comments are always so thoughtful and I appreciate/enjoy them SO much! Thank you!!!!! I feel lucky that we’ve connected in this blogger world!

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      • I am so happy that I helped even a little 🙂 I think the program that introduces the kid slowly to the kindergarten world helps the parents go through that stage of life too! 😉 I’ll see you carry a picture of Laken in your wallet like that little boy in his pocket 🙂

        P.S mom always said i should ship my kids to Romania where they can REALLY learn how to behave and how to study. She’s not bashing the North American ways (much), but we just had it so much different! A kid with bruises was a healthy kid!

        I played with kids just like you, and those pictures on FB with bikes and caption “this is how we knew where our friends were” are so accurate!! I lived in an apt building and I would look outside to see who went out to play and beg mom to let me go outside to play too. Kids would yell your name from outside and ask if you could come out to play… I mention this because my sister and my brother were born here and when they were 3-4-5 all they had was one neighbour’s little girl to play with and she was sooooo mean to my sister sometimes. My step-mom stepped in one time and told my sister she’s not allowed to play with her anymore. My sister yelled “WHO AM I GONNA PLAY WITH NOW???? I HAVE NO FRIENDS!!!” I cried… because it was so true! Later she made more friends through school, but my grandma didn’t allow her to go and just knock on doors to ask kids to come out to play. she would say it’s not something nice to do…it wasn’t American… people hear SCHEDULE IN play dates and movie nights and sleepovers and all has to be safe for the kids blah blah blah then the kids rebel first chance they get! … I think it’s all BS and honestly I am happy you’re there and I really, really pray that it will all come to be how you want it to be. Your comment to Chris about more languages is awesome – I regret that French never stuck to me (I blame the teachers lol)

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      • P.S I think our generation will turn around the way our kids grow up 😉 we’re bringing back the good ol’ days!

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    • Sounds great! I’ll just fly her on over! Ugh. That would be so awesome. If only we lived a bit closer!!! How about you just move here and stay with us? 🙂 Love you!

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  2. I wish I had some advice to offer but I’m too in love with the Waldkrippe idea, even if it does sound kind of like an organized version of Lord of the Flies.
    My wife and I just got back from vacationing on the beach. Every day on the way into town to eat or go to various places we went by a local grammar school and I was always happy to see kids running around the playground, left completely to their own devices with nary a helicopter parent in sight. And I both envy and feel kind of bad for those kids going to a school where they can look out the window and see the ocean, although I guess it becomes a regular thing for them.
    My real takeaway, though, is every kid should spend a little time in a krippe or daycare where another language is spoken. Imagine how many misunderstandings we could avoid if everyone in the world was at least bilingual.

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    • I totally agree! It’s funny because I just know that Laken is going to do just fine (if we actually get in to one.) She is so adventurous and such a smart little cookie. And, she LOVES people…so to be surrounded all day is going to be amazing for her. It’s just me who is going to have a hard time. 🙂 I definitely had the same Lord of the Flies thought! And, I’m wondering how they do it in the winter? I mean, they must have some type of cover? As for the lack of helicopter parents, I like it too. I still get a bit freaked out at school when I’m on duty and two hundred kids are playing. But, they do seem to learn for themselves what their limitations are. The ones who get stuck in a tree, for example, quickly learn to stay away from it! 🙂 Back to the bilingual thing, I completely agree with that too. It is so important to me that Laken is bilingual (at the very least.) I’m hoping to send her to international school and there she’ll learn both German AND another language (on top of English, obviously.) I wish I could have gone to a school like that when I was young. Anyway, welcome back from vacation! Where did you go? The ocean would definitely be an amazing sight to see out the window…if we ever leave this country I’d like to aim for somewhere on the ocean. I hope you had a great trip!!

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      • It was a great trip. We went to Dauphin Island which is a little place most people have never heard of, and that’s part of what’s nice about it. Very little changes there and it’s nice to be able to stay in a house right on the beach.

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  3. I’m so glad we managed to get our boys into the school we wanted – it certainly wasn’t thanks to me, who kept forgetting to put in the damn application forms.
    I loved that playground! It’s a bit hardcore, like a junior Tough Mudder. The swinging monkey bars look a long way down even for me! I think that’s the way to go though, give kids the chance to develop from a young age their physical intelligence, which includes their limitations too… better they have a collection of skinned knees and bumped noggins from minor learning experiences than a broken leg or skull because they tried something when they’re older because they didn’t realise the danger. Australia is going the way of America and becoming a bit of a ‘nanny state’, banning kids from climbing trees or doing cartwheels, removing the challenging playground equipment etc. New Zealand however continues to allow its children to learn the old fashioned way – by trial and error and a little touch of danger to make it interesting – and my boys love the playgrounds over there. It’s good for them too; protecting our kids from every little bump and scratch is not going to prepare them for life’s inevitable pains. They need to learn that things are MORE worthwhile if they’re a bigger challenge.
    Good luck with finding a krippe – I’m sure Laken will love it wherever she goes. 🙂

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    • Thanks for your comments! I was so excited to read them, today! 🙂 I completely agree with what you’re saying, and it does seem like American (and Australia, from what you’re saying) are going over the top in trying to “protect” kids from experiencing anything that could be remotely dangerous. In general, the best way to learn something is to experience it for yourself. Just today, Laken kept opening this drawer and sticking her fingers in before shutting it. She got her fingers pinched three different times and now seems to get that it’s not so fun to play with those drawers. 🙂 I like what you said about how protecting our kids from every bump and scratch isn’t going to prepare them for life’s inevitable pains. Well said! I agree–trying to keep them in a bubble certainly isn’t going to do them any favors. Sometimes even the bubble doesn’t work. It seems like Laken hurts herself even when I’m standing right behind her, keeping an eye on things. These kids are quick!

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      • I know right? It’s almost like they are DETERMINED to hurt themselves sometimes, and me warning them over and over doesn’t sink in, but when it happens and they get hurt – that’s when they start to twig. I think kids are just wired that way!

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