On Parenting

So we’ve been back a month and a half, and let me tell you, it’s been an adjustment for us, especially for our daughter. She’ll be 3 in November and about a month ago, she started German kindergarten. We went through the 1 week adjustment period and she braved it like a champ! I was proud of her!! She is sleeping there, eating, playing, learning something (I’m not sure what just yet) and she makes some pretty abstract art. Her teachers call her the Wild One, or Miss Strong Personality. Both are perfectly true. Our daughter is…. a force of nature that can have so many effects on us, her parents.

We are at the meltdown-over-everything phase. It gets so bad that when we are in public, it can feel like she has exposed the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing. I read the articles, I try techniques, I speak in different tones, I’m strong but also nurturing. And when all of that doesn’t work; I yell, I’m firm as I pull her off the floor. I’m learning how to be a happy mom who can discipline her child. So far, I’m failing. I just don’t know how to be, what’s going to work, how she’ll respond. Maybe she knows this. Maybe that’s why things go as far as they do.

A few weeks ago, she had a massive meltdown at the grocery store. I was with my husband, and we were in the checkout line. Our daughter wanted to put the eggs on the conveyor, and my husband tried to help her. She got angry and threw all of the eggs on the floor. She screamed bloody murder. She bit him, she hit me. She threw herself on the floor and let it out. Let the anger and frustration stream out of her and through us all. It’s hard being small and if we didn’t know it before, we knew it then. She wanted to be heard, and felt.

It was as if the store stood still. It wasn’t just the looks that needlessly bothered me on top of everything else, or the stress that had me anxious, it was the responses. One woman put her hands over her ears and made a face of disgust. And she wasn’t the only one. I said excuse me, I apologized. The lady mumbled something angrily, and when my husband looked her way and asked her what her problem was, she promptly shut it and stalked off.(Whenever we have instances like this, people tend to respect my German husband. When he’s not there, they don’t just mumble). We made it out of the store, my husband having paid for the broken eggs and helped clean up. We were standing just outside the store on the cobblestones as we tried to handle the situation. Her tantrum was still piercing the air, people stood staring…. and it was just this moment where I didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to do. We tried to calm her, we tried soft and hard, you name it…. but she wasn’t having it. We were helpless. This isn’t a new phenomenon for parents anywhere. This is the way it is sometimes. There is nothing special about it either. But the feelings were new for me.

Here was this moment where people are looking to see how I’d handle this situation, and I failed. My husband failed. We are usually laid-back, sarcastic, jokey types. And we’re both sensitive, both introverts.We’re figuring this all out as we go. We’re figuring our child out as we go. Thing is; it’s different over here. We didn’t have tantrums here as much as we had them in Brooklyn. Americans seem to respond differently. And I’ll tell you why. Where we lived in Brooklyn, it was a predominantly black area, and I’m half-black. I’ll be honest about it without hopefully offending anyone; with black people, there tends to be this community vibe thing going on, especially in NYC. I lived in Harlem before I moved to Germany 6 years ago. I’d walk out the door and people would call me sister, they’d invite me into their homes when I locked myself out. They’d have corner barbecues every Saturday. I’d leave my building and the people outside would ask me if I heard our neighbor singing horribly the night before. I always did, she was the worst but you had to give her credit, she didn’t give up and you had to respect that. We’d laugh, we talked briefly… we got to know each other. I felt safe, included, and normal there. Apparently 6 years later, and they still ask my old roommate about me.

And that’s a big difference about living in a black community and living in a city in Germany. I don’t personally feel a sense of community here. I only know my neighbors because I take in their packages. We are ok, friendly. I’ve spoken to my German husband about it too, just to make sure that what I’m feeling is legit or biased. But he is with me on this; there is no real community vibe here. They don’t want to know me and I don’t feel inclined to know them either, if only because when I do try, I’ve (on almost 7-8 occasions) had to endure their questions about my race, why my daughter doesn’t look like me in that she is lighter, if I’m her stepmom, how do I like Germany, why Bush? Why Trump? And there is always some comment about my level of German; oh we can understand you just fine, but your husband should only speak German with you. Some of it is curiosity and I get it, but some of it is just rude, and sets me on edge.

So when my kid is crying at a grocery store, people are removed from the situation. There is this cold indifference. It’s not wrong, it’s just different. In Brooklyn, they were pretty cool about the meltdowns. Oh they tutted just as much sometimes, but you know what? They helped too. People would smile at her, talk to her, try to make her laugh. And I was grateful. Brooklyn, NYC, USA isn’t better than Germany, it’s just different. And for a parent, it can add another level of stress of adjusting to that.

The bright spot though: at our daughter’s school the students are so diverse! We have families from all around the world, and it has been great. When she explodes after school, which she does every day, parents help out. When I look at my daughter’s class, I can’t help but smile. I love this diversity, I think it’s beautiful; and it’s better here than in Brooklyn. Education is better here than in Brooklyn (not counting the extremely overpriced schools in Brooklyn though, I hear those are great if you can pay $2500+ a month). And that makes it all worth it. My daughter’s eyes light up the moment she spots her friends; a girl from Spain, a shy girl from Syria, and another girl from Nigeria. How cool is that?

This post took me a week to write…. I’ve been busy working on my other projects and binge watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’ve been overwhelmed with parenting, and adjusting back into this country. And I’m so, so tired! So I hope you understand where I’m coming from on this post and thanks for reading! The next post will come sooner and be way more coherent 🙂



3 thoughts on “On Parenting

  1. Hi Allie,
    please forgive me in case I sound schoolmasterly:

    You might want to look into Montessori pedagagics. When I did that first (shortly after I had become a father) I read the first 20 pages or so of a book about it before I thought “what nonsense” and put the book away when I came to the point where they said you shouldn´t help your kids unless really necessary and even e. g. give it the valuable porcellain you use for yourself if they want to helplaying the table – not unbreakable plastic plates. That seemed too unreasonable to me.

    Thankfully I was nudged to take a bit of a deeper dive into Montessori and became a big fan (and I do think my kids benefited hugely from it). The tantrum you described would probably have been avoided as your daughter would have had a chance to get the sense of achievement for managing on her own to put the eggs on the conveyer (if not a few broken eggs would have been the price but it would have been a lesson tought by natural consequence rather than parents, which is much more acceptable to kids). I know it sounds crazy at first.

    Apologies if I come across as condescending – it´s really not my intention.

    1. No no! Hey, I’ll try anything if it might help. These tantrums are intense. Thanks for this, I’ll check it out. Another person wrote that I should check out The Happiest Toddler on the Block, so I’m extremely happy with the support and tips. I need it! Thank you very, very much 🙂

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