Free, just like Pippi!

When moving to Sweden, My husband and I decided to enroll our children in Swedish schools with the hope that they would quickly assimilate by making friends and learning the language.  For most parents, the start to the new school year is always filled with a mixture of emotions; eagerness for a new beginning, a nervousness as to what the new teacher and year might bring, and just simply stated…worry.

While walking my three boys into the schoolyard  at the beginning of the new school year, I have to admit that I was a nervous wreck.  In fact, one parent even asked me if I was alright.  She said I looked stressed.  Darn it…I guess that my ‘lagomness’ (is that even a word?) wasn’t showing through!   I thanked her for the concern and said that I was fine…although I actually felt like bursting into tears because I so desperately wanted to ensure that my boys were going to survive their first day in a new school in a new country.  Thankfully, my boys were much braver and ‘lagom’ about the new school year than me!  With a little coaxing and a kiss, they confidently marched into class with their new, soon-to-be Swedish classmates.  One of their teachers must have seen the worry on my face because she quickly approached me, placed a hand gently on my shoulder and reassured me that everything would be just fine.

On my walk home,  despite this teacher’s comforting comment, the mother in me continued to sow seeds of doubt.   Will they make friends?   What if they don’t know the word for…?  What if they don’t understand anything?  What if..what if…what if…

With these thoughts racing through my head, I tried to pacify myself by sitting down and indulging in my second or third cup of coffee that morning (I lost track because I hadn’t slept too soundly the night before).  I soon came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t making this situation any better and decided that the only option left was to focus on the positive and look forward to seeing my sons’ happy little faces that afternoon.

Ten minutes prior to the end of the day, I raced out of the house towards the school, destined to rescue my sons with open arms.  As I hurried into the schoolyard,  I saw kids running all over the playground, wooded areas and a few, rather calm looking teachers were chatting in the center of the play area.  Then I heard a, “Hey Mom!” from above.  I looked up and saw my 7 year old son in the tree above smiling down at me.

“What are you doing up there?” I asked.

“What does it look like?  I’m climbing a tree…duh!”

“Oh…right…have you had a good day?”

“It’s been awesome!  We get to climb trees and play in the woods.  It’s so much fun!”

After helping my little tarzan leave the jungle, I searched for my other two boys, as they were also running around, freely exploring their new play area.  Despite taking 20 minutes to round-up my troops, they eagerly shared similar stories and raved about the freedom and fun they had experienced in their new school.   My worry and nervousness was soon placated by their exuberance.

My children’s previous school only permitted them to play on certain parts of the playground while on-duty teachers with walkie-talkies watched them like hawks.   I understand the need for such restrictions in US schools, as current circumstances don’t permit the same freedom and safety that most Scandinavian children are able to enjoy.  It’s such a shame, but that’s just the way things are nowadays (I’m starting to sound old!).

Despite this luxury that my children will grow up with, I have to admit that it’s going to take some time for me to fully and confidently accept the freedom my children will experience in Swedish schools.  It’s reminiscent of my childhood in the 80’s, minus the banana seat bicycle and bad hair!!


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