Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Disease and Discovery ...

January 4, 2006

German classes are officially postponed for the time being. Arrangements had been made for His Holiness to attend a local kindergarten, afternoons beginning this week, while I resumed my studies. I’d never seen the place but had been assured it was just fine, well appointed and clean. I must confess at the outset that I have been called “fussy” by some who love me. I’m one of those who is either blessed or cursed, depending on your POV, with an over-sensitive sinus. There is a profession, or rather a calling, in which people do nothing but sample smells … everything from “new car” (yes, that smell is a product) to the latest perfume … the people who practice this art are called “noses” and although I am not a professional “nose” I am fully equipped for the role.
It was my nose that first signaled a problem at this kindergarten; a musty, old diaper, lack of fresh circulating air aroma welcomed me when I entered the room. That in itself was nearly enough for me to reverse course, but it was the deep, raspy, hacking cough from a dark corner at the rear of the room that sent chills down my spine. HH had already crawled out of the stroller and was shedding layers of clothing, so eager was he to be with humans his own age. Those other humans unfortunately were very sick – all of them – runny noses, watery red eyes, coughs of varying degrees of intensity and pitch … So I made a decision, in that instant and swept him into my arms, folded him back into the stroller, fumbled for his jacket and hat and told the supervisor, in my most humble broken German, that I didn’t think today was the best day to begin attending school … that we would be back next week when the other children recovered from whatever it was they were infected with … She tried to assure me that it was all normal, that I should expect him to be ill for the next year or two, that she had been ill since she started working there and that the children just reinfected each other constantly and that was to be expected. I know that nursery schools and kindergartens are breeding grounds for simple childhood illnesses – HH attended school in New York and has had his share of the stuff that goes around … but I wouldn’t leave my pet snake in this kindergarten, much less my one and only son.
So that was that – and afternoon German classes are temporarily postponed. Instead HH and I are off to discover Köln … Each day I plan to widen the circle of our travels a bit more, take in the usual tourist sites in the dead of winter while we can have them pretty much to ourselves. Yesterday in our travels we found a beautiful and previously unknown playground with a log cabin and swings and all sorts of other things … We encountered a group of children from another local kindergarten (all remarkably free of obvious life-threatening illness) and HH was welcomed with open, chalk-covered arms into the group. Even the teachers included him in the playing. I was a little sad for him when the other children were pilled up into their carriage and carted back to school. He stood there watching them go, all small and solitary in that large empty plaza … then he turned to me and laughed, pointed to the swing and started running for it, and we were off again …

2 Comments:

Blogger Cathy said...

HH is a very lucky prince, with a father who is a king.

4:05 PM  
Blogger christina said...

Absolutely the right decision to get out of that awful place. And I wouldn't go back if I were you. What you described isn't at all unusual, though, and some of the kindergartens are really dismal. They just don't have the money to make them better and the welfare of children seems to be pretty low on the list of priorities in Germany right now. Many kindergartens are just seen as holding tanks - the teachers are poorly trained and the children don't learn anything. It really pays to look around and visit as many schools as you can. I can imagine also it's difficult to get a place at this time of year?

As for the sick children, it's probably best to inquire beforehand what the school policy is and get everything in writing. There doesn't seem to be any standard for illness that I've seen and every kindergarten is free to make its own rules. Depending on the demographic make-up of the neighbourhood there are three things I can see happening in the case of sick children being sent to school:

1) Some parents have no choice but to work and have no back-up childcare if a child becomes ill
2) Some parents feel it's better to get all the childhood illnesses over with right away and purposely send their kids to school no matter what. These are often the parents who refuse to have their children immunized.
3) Some parents just don't give a damn one way or another.

Hopefully you'll be able to find a decent place that makes you feel good about leaving HH there but for now I'm sure he'll be thrilled to explore Cologne with his dad.

12:03 AM  

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