My oldest kid has started school. If we still lived in England, he’d have been bitterly putting on his school uniform for the last two years and painfully learning the rules of the playground (“Don’t tattle. Always make fun of those different from you. Never say anything, unless you’re sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do” – Homer Simpson). Instead, we live in Sweden, where school not only starts as the kids are on the verge of reaching puberty, but also seems to be like an extended birthday party with weekly visits to the woods.
Everyday, he comes home and tells me how much fun he’s had, how he’s looking forward to the next day and even when he had flu, his biggest worry was how soon he could get back in to his schoolwork. I’m beginning to think something is wrong with him.
Last week was parent’s evening. I upheld my old school tradition of turning up 10 minutes late and once there I only half paid attention to what the teachers were saying. There was a hairy moment when the teacher looked me straight in the eye and said something along the lines of “Your son does that, don’t you agree?”. With years of training in the English school system, I bluffed it, nodded enthusiastically and said “Yes… yes, of course!” while praying internally that there would be no further questions.
I drifted off again, and started looking at something interesting on the ceiling, when suddenly all the other parents were standing up and encouraging me to do the same. Everyone was loosening up and stretching. I was beginning to wish I’d listened a bit more carefully to the last 5 minutes as all I could remember were the words, Dutch music therapist, volcano and expressive dance.
The next thing I knew, ‘Play’ had been pressed on a CD and everyone was waving their arms around – I followed suit and together 20 parents recreated the eruption of a massive volcano, earthquakes, the subsequent Tsunami, hurricane force winds, followed by gentle rains, the dousing of the flames and a return to a more peaceful earth where flowers began to bloom and lions walked hand in hand with wildebeest – all through the medium of dance.
I felt extremely self-conscious, embarrassed almost, but as I looked around I was the only one who wasn’t letting myself become lost in the music. What had happened? Here I was alone in a crowd of Swedes who were living in the moment, letting their feelings run wild and their bodies just go with the flow.
Then the music stopped and it was time for a coffee and a bulle. I tried making small talk with the other parents, but an awkward yet comfortably familiar silence had descended upon the group. It was as if there was an unwritten first rule of parent’s evening – We don’t talk about what happens at parent’s evening.
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