Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Xip Xap (sheep shop)

Lily had her first day at daycare/nursery/guardería yesterday.

Oli didn't have his morning class, so we both took her and she was sunny and bright all the way to the school, then screamed when we handed her over. When I returned I was told she had cried for the entire 3.5 hours, not tears though, just upset cries, and she made the teacher hold her the whole time (Could a parent be told anything more heartbreaking???). The teacher seeming completely unperterbed and Lily saying she wanted to go back, we returned again today. Today, she was very naughty (more than usual) when time to leave the house, and started crying when we got to the door of the school. I was told she cried 15 minutes and then settled in. The teacher Cristina, who is really great, said Lily played with other kids and was talking to them happily. She said one kid came up to her (the teacher) and asked in Catalan, "What is that girl talking about?!" emphatically. As long as all goes well, Lily will go five days a week from 9am-12:30 from now through June. I'm not sure that I'll have work any time soon, and if I did it would probably not just be mornings, but we thought it important for Lily to see kids more often and get exposed to Catalan. Thus, this seven-week experiment.

She has had some experience with nursery care in the past. In Andorra she stayed in one while we skiied for one day. In the morning session, she cried for two hours. In the afternoon session, she cried for 10 minutes, had fun, then cried when she had to leave. While staying with Oli's parents in the UK, she stayed for 4 hours in a nursery and did fine after getting over the initial tears. With this history, we expected some tears the first days and hoped for quick adjustment.

In the days leading up to her first day at the guardería (also called parvulario sometimes, although that refers more to school for 3-6 year olds it seems - it's called a parvulari in Catalan in the photos below) I asked her if it would be a good idea for her to go to school/guardería and play with kids without mom, and that mom would come back for her later. On all occasions the answer was a resounding yes, which surprised me since in the past she had responded with a whimsical no, generally changing the subject. I thought her experience in England must have changed things.

I tried to encourage this positive response by having her help me prepare the items she would take to school and leave there: cup, comb, towel, hand soap, cologne water (??!!?). That cologne water (colonia) really threw me when the school director was listing the things to bring. I found it right in the infant section of the store but still am not quite sure what they do with it, or more specifically, where on the body they place it. It says on the bottle we bought something like, "Small children have more sensitive skin than adults. Normal colonias, with high levels of alcohol, can irritate their skin. For this reason, ours is made with a low alocohol content, especially for children." I say, why not just refrain from putting perfume-y water on your kid? Hm? Anyone, anyone? In any case, it's nice that they have the kids go through a whole grooming routine each day, so at least Lily won't be dirty and stinky like her immigrant parents.

Also related to the colonia, I spent two days trying to find the right kind of bottle to put it in. Intially, I bought a massive bottle of the stuff, the only kind of bottle it seemed to come in, and got a smaller spray bottle from one of the Oriental Bazar shops, as the director had seemed to indicate that this was the type of bottle generally employed. I had to ask her what colonia was and she was nice enough not to treat me like an alien; she did do a whole hand mime thing when talking about the spraying, which made me feel like a douche, but that's not her fault. After the first day the teacher told me I might want to bring still a smaller bottle that Lily could operate herself since the kids do the grooming themselves, and she showed me an example of one of the bottles with a button that pops up and down to release small amounts of liquid. So I spent another day out trying to find the right size and top type so my kid wouldn't be a smelly freak immigrant (See next paragraph.). After an afternoon out in the sun during which I should have been buying ingredients for dinner, a woman in a perfume shop directed me to a supermarket that might have what I was looking for and there, I broke down and bought a 10-euro set of small bottles of pretty-smelling-baby liquids that included soap, shampoo, lotion and, ta da, colonia. I thought Lily smelled pretty good before, but man, you should smell her now. Synthetic flower never smelled so nice on a kid.

Despite the humourous anecdotes it yields, I'm not joking about my preocupation with Lily's immigrant status, or more specifically, my status as an immigrant mom. This whole daycare thing has begun what I can only imagine will continue as long as we live here: my preoccupation with Lily's level of normalness and my inability to express myself and represent our family in Spanish as well as I can in English. It was frustrating trying to communicate through all the paperwork we had to do, but I was able to operate anonymously in big offices I would never (hopefully) return to. Now, I'm dealing with Lily's course director, her teacher, her doctor, etc. and I don't want to be that lady they roll their eyes at when they see her name on a list. I guess most important is that Lily is a trooper and an all-around charismatic kid whose personality speaks for itself, so really all that leaves is me worrying about how I look to the rest of the world. Oh, ego. I just want these people to know that I'm nice, that we're nice, that we're not drunk Brits on holiday or Americans from red states.

I get frustrated sometimes, no, often, at the ease with which Europeans dabble in languages, speaking many at decent levels of fluidity. OK, fine, romance languages are similar and this makes it easier for them sometimes, but it's more the confidence and lack of caring about making mistakes. I have gotten over this fear A LOT since I last lived here, mostly through necessity (Thank you, Lily, for requiring me to go through so many processes and making me feel a need to integrate.), but still remain easily damaged when I feel an encounter didn't go well. Well, in any case, I'm doing three intercambios, all of which are really good, and during this week while Lily was in school, have been on five office visits, completing our last cycle of hell (I finally have a Spanish ID card and social security number and soon a health care card!), and was really pleased with how easy communicating through these visits has become. Additionally. I've noticed and been really happy with how many neighborhood friends we seem to have: a family in our building with a girl close to Lily's age, three separate middle-to-old-aged ladies, the frutería husband and wife, the panadería ladies, and aaaaalll the ladies at the supermarket, I mean all of 'em.

I guess what this all means is that it's tough to be an immigrant, but if you tough it out you might actually get a chance to live in (not just continuously move to) the foreign land in question, and find out if you like it. We'll let you know how it goes :)


Ready to go.

Big girl with a bookbag.

Happy with dad.

Becoming unsure.

Not having it despite dad's valiant attempt. Wants to go elsewhere, as indicated by pointing finger.


Maiasaura said...

wow, i love the name of her daycare! i was going to propose that we find a way to use it in regular speech as often as possible,and judging by oli's comment on taylor street, it seems he had the same idea. xip xap!

also, just generally this whole post was brilliant. i was scratching my head and laughing about the cologne water right along with you. aside from all the unique struggles that come with your immigrant status, i can really identify with the emotional process of taking your kid to school, which you described so well.

finally, yea for your recent bureaucratic victories!

Angela said...

Yeah, we find ourselves saying "Xip xop!" all the time. It's like "splish splash" in Catalan. Glad you're spreading it's use in the US of A...

Jumping Ben said...

Yeah, that was a really good post.
I can't wait for Lily to read all this one day..