Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carefree Swedish Kids

I noticed something since moving here when it comes to the wee ones. Not only are they everywhere it seems but judging by the number of pregnant bellies I saw at the local lake this past Saturday, there's another army on its way. This can likely be attributed to the amazing amount of maternity AND paternity leave parents get in this country...
So not only am I noticing the sheer number of kiddies but the lack of parental supervision of said kiddies.

We live in a very kid-friendly neighbourhood...perfect for the little guy. It's a semi-private community of "radhuses"/rowhouses/townhouses with little playgrounds in each block of housing, a larger playground nestled in trees and the whole thing backs onto a forest. We're surrounded by nature.

And the kids run free, run wild...And now that I think of it, kinda like we used to run the roads when we were their age. With our parents calling out after us, "Be home before dark." "Be home for lunch." "J O H N!!!!! S U PP ER!!!!!!!!!"
Remember those days? When words like "kidnapping", "sexual predator" and "stranger danger" were virtually unheard of?

Well that's what it's like here. Kids as young as 3 climbing trees without a parent in sight. GASP! And around dinnertime you hear names like "Rasmus, Johan, Jakob and Louisa" bouncing off the windows.

So it's freaking me out.

I keep wanting to run up to these "abandoned" children to ask them, "Where are your parents?" "Where do you live?" "Do they know you're having a tea party in the woods?" But then I might just be one of those strangers their parents may (or may not) have warned them about.
Yes, I realize some day my child will walk himself to playdates and run around the neighbourhood tearing up the pavement. He'll be 3 in a week and I cannot imagine the day when I won't be keeping a watchful eye out for him.

I'm going to be that Paranoid Parent, aren't I? The one all the Swedes mutter to themselves about, "Oh, she's from North America." The parent that embarrasses her kid on a daily basis: lurking in the bushes, peeking out the window, insisting on accompanying him to his buddy's house two doors down. "Mom, would you just go home already? I'm fine."
Is it really that safe here? Who's off their rocker? Me or them?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Daycare Dilemna

Oy...sad heart this morning folks. The little guy started daycare here in Sweden in January. We were blessed enough to have a modern day Montenegrin Mary Poppins as the little guy's Nanny for the first two and a half years of his life. It was heart-wrenching to part with her, to say the least but really the timing was good. He was getting older and in need of the stimulation only fellow toddlers can provide.

Background Break: The first few weeks of daycare were just as challenging as everyone said they would be. Me crying, him crying. My heart breaking everyday for two weeks. Even as his tears stopped and he began to eagerly await hopping out the front door to join his newfound friends and teacher, I would sob on the short walk home. His daycare was an ok place, the teachers wonderful but the facility not quite suited to house 30 active kiddies. Long story short, they announced the daycare would like close and despite vehement protests from parents, it looks like it just might. Since I wasn't too happy with it anyway (for a variety of reasons I won't get into), I started looking for alternatives and found a Montessori school which he'll start mid-August.

Before I go on, I should likely explain the daycare system here a bit. First of all, the entire system is run by the municipality with the exception of a few daycares (like his Montessori school) which are run by parents cooperatives. But regardless of where you send your child, the price is the same and low. I pay 1260 SEK (about 170 CDN) a month for 35 hours.

In the meantime, most daycares close their doors for a minimum of 1 month for summer vacation and those kids still requiring care are herded into feeder schools. Lucky for him, his "new school" (his words) is a brand new and beautiful facility with sprawling grounds, cool playground equipment and a spacious, naturally bright interior filled with all sorts of toys and stimulation. A couple of teachers from his "old school" followed him and 1 other boy to the new school for a week or so, to ease the transition.

The problem? Today is the second day in the past week that he's told me "no go to school". And when I proceed to drop him off, he cries his little heart out and I have to turn and walk away. Like living those first two weeks all over again.

I am one of the fortunate parents in this world. My son is a happy camper. He's almost always in great spirits. No public temper tantrums or constant whining. We really lucked out. So when he cries, there's a reason (Watch, I'm about to jinx it all by committing these thoughts publicly).

So what do I think the reason could be? Well, naturally the teachers from his old school left for their summer vacations and since then, every week it seems there's a new batch of teachers (and typically a new group of students). It's unsettling to me so I can't imagine what he must be going through. Well, I don't have to imagine. I'm experiencing it.

So let me amend my last post on Swedish Vacations. Let me change my mind slightly. Is there no way at least one teacher from each school could work for four consecutive weeks during the summer? They still have a whole month off to enjoy! Maybe that's asking too much. How about two teachers from each school working at least 2 consecutive weeks? Alright, let me make further "cuts". How about two teachers from ANY school working those 4 weeks OR 2 weeks each?

The idea is to provide some stability to the children whose parents don't have the luxury of taking 4-6 weeks off. Imagine being a 3 year old who spends the majority of his week with strangers. Now imagine those strangers being replaced with new strangers every other week. So just when you start getting used to these strangers, they leave you.

Ok, I'm rambling but you get my point. I think I'll be making a call to the Municipality to voice my concerns. And when I do, I'll be told that So & So is on vacation and so is the other So & So who typically takes her place.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Off for 6 weeks...

I wish! Seems everyone else in this country is though. Inspired by a fellow Swedish expat blogger, A Swedish American in Sweden (sorry but it won't let me link for some reason), I decided to post on this "issue". For all those unfamiliar, every Swedish citizen is entitled to between 5 and 8 weeks paid vacation per year. GASP! You read it right. And it gets better. You're also entitled to take 3 consecutive weeks during the summer months. It doesn't matter if you're working at the local supermarket or leading the country.

Now for us North Americans, unless you're fortunate enough to work for the federal government, expecting or taking that kind of vacation time will leave you with a pretty pink slip on your desk.

So one on earth does the country survive and business thrive with so many empty desks during the months of July and August? Beats me. The birthplace of Sony Ericsson, Skype, Volvo, Scania and so many of the world's leading brands and inventors, Sweden somehow manages and manages well.

So what am I doing with my 3 consecutive weeks of vacation this summer? Well, not only did we just arrive here in January but we work for a small start-up and leaving for 3 weeks would likely kill the company. Not being naive or egotistical, just stating a fact. And here I sit blogging and green with envy as I watch the middle class jet off to country homes, hot European destinations and even expensive trips to North America.

To add insult to injury, Sweden also has 13 public holidays per year, called "red days" (by comparison Canada has 5 national holidays). Oh and the day before each of these public holidays is either treated with a "defacto" extra half or full day off.

So some say the Swedes are lazy. But I think these naysayers are jealous (I sure am!). In my humble opinion, Swedes know something we don't know. They work to live. They turn off their phones, take their vacation and enjoy their time away, guilt-free. They know their jobs will be waiting for them when they return and that the next holiday is just around the corner.

Nice eh?
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