School Run Chaos.

Still not settled…

We are into Dani’s third full week of school and he definitely hates it. He cries as soon as he realises where we are going. He starts off fine and quite happily eats his breakfast and lets me dress him. Even though it is the school uniform it doesn’t seem to bother him. As soon as we arrive at the school however he really lets it all out. “No please daddy. I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay in the car all day”. Yes, that is correct. He would rather stop in the car all day than enter the school. Naturally that would not last very long – if I allowed it – but he certainly gets very upset. I too, do not particularly like the school but for my own different reasons.

Not alone…

Today when we entered the building he clung to me crying his little eyes out. Fortunately (if that is the right word) there was another kid crying – a small girl about the same age as Dani. At least he is not the only one still crying.

Pick up time for the first year kids was 4.30pm for the first two and a half weeks. It was relatively quick and easy. This week it changes to 5pm – the same time as for every other school year in the buildings on that site. They have a clever finger-print recognition system where you press your finger on the reader until it beeps. This in turn shows up in the classroom and the teachers then prepare and bring out your child/children.

School run chaos

Now; efficiency is most definitely not the Spanish strong point. If there is a difficult way of doing something then they will usually take that option. But what I saw at the school at pick-up time bordered on stupidity. There simply is not enough room for all the parents and their vehicles. It is a very small area in a busy city. As if the traffic is not bad enough!? Surely it would make sense to stagger the pick-up times and let the youngest get out first? I would have thought that would be more efficient. This being Spain, chaos must reign supreme. Although I am sure the school run is just as chaotic in most places.

There are only two finger-print identification points and so there were two disorganised queues full of pushy parents – and I mean that literally. Shoving and jostling for position. The gates were not fully open so even the parents who had managed to liberate their children could barely get out as the remaining parents forced their way into the school grounds. It resembled the exit of a large crowded football stadium.

It was pathetic. All I wanted to do was rescue the little lad. As it turned out he seemed quite happy and even said that he had had a good day. Wow. There is hope yet. Let’s see what this morning brings…

The Sum Of All Fears…

 

No. Not the Film…

If you were to ask me what my biggest fear was when I left the workplace to spend more time with my son I would have given you the answer immediately. It was not a difficult question.

My biggest and only real fear was that Dani was a child at the age when only their mother will do. Anything else just isn’t good enough. Anything else just increases the pain and makes the situation worse. What starts off as a minor moan or little cry can easily turn into a full blown tantrum. A major disaster. End of the world stuff. All because mummy is not there. Even if I mimic the exact same words and actions it will never have the same calming effect.

It’s only natural…

Toddlers always gravitate to their mothers. Clinging to them at times as if life cannot possibly exist without the constant attention of their mum. I understand it. I really do. There is no way that I could hope to fill the shoes of Dani’s mother. It is perfectly natural. And there is no point in any feminist trying to convince me otherwise. The bond between a toddler and their mother is the way it was meant to be. This is mother nature at work. Or, if you are at all religious (which I am not particularly); the way God made it.

The thing is when I started this stay-at-home-dad thing I thought that he would already be that stage in his “development”. At that point I really expected the worst. (It was only 8 months ago although it seems much longer.) Yet once we started spending more time together – e.g. just two lads travelling to the UK – this stereotypical behaviour never really manifested itself. Until now that is.

Why and What…

Maybe it is linked in with his new environment and his own fears of being left in school all day. Quite possibly. One thing is clear however. That time in his development has definitely arrived. He has become a real mummy’s boy. I do not mean that in a shameful name calling kind of way. It is perfectly normal and I fully accept it. It just makes it that much harder for me to do things on my own with the lad.

What I really need to know is: What, if anything, can I do about it? And how long will it last?

I fear that I already know the answers to these questions: Nothing & For a very long time.

Movie nonsense…

Incidentally in case you didn’t know; the Sum of All Fears is also the title of a fairly decent movie starring Ben Affleck. It also stars the excellent Morgan Freeman who plays the president of the United States. Clearly Mr. Freeman would make a far better president than the current “leader of the free world” but that is an altogether different subject.

School – A Pattern Emerges

The first full week of full time school ended last Friday and a clear pattern is emerging.

The last thing Dani says when he goes to bed I “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.” The first thing he says when he is woken is “I don’t want to go to school today.”

Little faces in the window…

This morning he clung to me like a barnacle when I tried to leave him at his classroom door. It reminded me of the way some kids reacted on my first day of school. Eventually he told me to go and stand outside by the window so he could at least see me from inside. As if he thought I was going to wait there all day. One of the señoras blancas (ladies in white) coaxed him into the room and led him to the window. He saw me waving outside then I sneaked off. Guilt ridden! The window was full of little faces just tall enough to peer out. A sad sight for sure although most seemed reasonably content.

He was fine first thing this morning and ate all his breakfast in good spirits. It was when we neared the building that he started crying. In between repeated pleas not to take him into the school he actually sobbed “I am too little to go to school”. The problem is that I fully agree with him but this is the way things are here in Spain. There is nothing I can do about it.

Achtung baby…

The odd thing is however that I think he quite likes it while he is there. He must be paying attention in the classroom as he has even started saying the odd German phrase. When asked who taught him to say that he replies “Frau Silvia”.

The kids refer to the teachers depending on their language. Dani’s teachers are Señorita Lara (Spanish), Miss Jenny (English) and Fraulein Silvia for German (shortened to Frau). For French lessons it is Mademoiselle Pauline – at least I think so. He has not mentioned French classes yet. In any case I get the feeling Dani would rather take his chances with “Madame La Guillotine” than stop in school.

It’s going to be a long, hard first term after all.

Animated Kids’ TV Shows Reviewed

 

As promised in a previous post here is a run-down of some of the many animated kids’ TV shows that are popular on Spanish TV at the moment. The views expressed below are mainly my own personal take on these TV shows with a little help from Dani – based on how much he seems to like them, or otherwise. Apologies in advance. This is a long post but still only scratches the surface. If there are other TV shows you would like me to review then please let me know by leaving a comment.

Sponge Bob Squarepants

OK, I know. Sponge Bob has been around for ages. We all know Sponge Bob right? A relatively old series now; it started in the late 90s – last century! Wow! Worth a mention though as it is suitably wacky enough to keep adults entertained as well as the kids.

Just in case you don’t know: Bob is a sea sponge living at the bottom of the sea – naturally enough – although he resembles a rectangular kitchen cleaning sponge. He lives in a pineapple and works in a burger bar called the Krusty Krab owned by Mr. Krabs. His best mate is a star fish called Patrick. Other regular characters include Squidward (a squid) who is Bob’s next door neighbour and co-worker. Sandy Cheeks is a squirrel who wears an astronaut suit because clearly a squirrel cannot breathe under the sea. Pearl is somehow the whale daughter of Mr. Krabs while Larry the Lobster is a bodybuilding lifeguard at the Goo Lagoon. All good stuff.

It certainly seems to be drug inspired but I quite like it.

Peppa Pig

A children’s staple for some twelve years and a British production. It seems everyone loves Peppa especially those around Dani’s age. Simple childish animation and even simpler storylines certainly keep the kids transfixed. The main characters are Peppa Pig and her brother George who live with Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. Other characters include Danny Dog and Pedro Pony. Personally I think it’s crap!

Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom

Another British production very much in the mould of Peppa as far as animation is concerned. Holly is a fairy and Ben an elf and they live at the bottom of someone’s garden (naturally) with their respective families. They have adventures in the garden and sometimes a little beyond which include a fair amount of fairy-elf rivalry. Who would have thought eh?. Better than Peppa but only appeals to the kids. Very little adult interest. In fact, none for this adult.

Kate & Mim-Mim

A Canadian-British series based on a 5 year old girl named Kate and her adventures with her purple toy rabbit Mim-Mim. The usually small rabbit grows to human adult size when Kate spins around chanting “Mim-mim funny bunny friend, it’s time to come to life again” (as you do). Mim-Mim then whisks her off to the imaginary world of Mimiloo.

Special mention must go to Kate’s mum who has an outrageously sexy walk for a little kids cartoon. Maybe she has a purple rabbit too?

Other characters include a groundhog called Gobble. Seriously, I am not making this shit up.

Quite good, especially for kids of Dani’s age.

Regular Show

Now we are talking! This is easily the best show and is definitely more for adults than kids. At least that is my take. Wacky enough to keep me entertained for almost an hour as they tend to show a few back to back episodes on Spanish TV. But don’t be fooled. The kids love it too. The show has been running for 6 years and if you haven’t seen it yet then I urge you to take a look.

The characters are a real bizarre mix. The two main characters are best friends; a blue jay called Mordecai and a raccoon called Rigby. They both “work” as groundskeepers at a local park. They are a real pair of slackers who get into surreal, totally daft and out-of-this-world adventures.

The other main characters are all worth a special mention. They are as follows:

Benson: A living bubble-gum machine. He is also the park manager and often tries to sack Rigby and Mordecai for their slack ways. Work that one out for yourself. Crazy but I love it.

Pops Maellard: Pops for short. Apparently his father owns the Park. Pops has a large round ball-like head on a thin body. He is very much an old fashioned English gentleman saying things like “Jolly good show” and the likes.

Muscle-Man: Mitchell “Muscle-Man” Sorenstein is a green skinned character resembling something like a Frankenstien or Herman Monster. Hardly a real muscle man as he has a classic beer drinkers’ obese physique. Best friend to Hi-Five Ghost and another park employee.

Hi-Five Ghost: A head only ghost with a hand sticking up on top for giving flying high fives. A great supernatural dude.

Skips Quippenger: Skips is a big, white, immortal yeti. He plays a bass guitar and also works in the park. Skips is voiced by Mark Hamill. Luke Skywalker himself! Beat that Peppa!

Super Wings

Oh dear. Not only does this one fall over itself trying to be educational it is also dreadful and annoying in equal measure. Walking talking jet planes (in a child-like transformers kind of way) deliver packages around the world.

Apparently this show is a Korean/Chinese/German/American production. That should tell you all you need to know. The only regular “human” character is an annoying twat of an air traffic controller called Jimbo. The rest of the main characters are aeroplanes.

Each episode Jimbo explains to Jett (the main character) a bit about the package’s destination and how to say something in the language of that location.

About as shit as it gets on kid’s TV. I am writing about it right now as Dani is watching it and I have to say, it is really getting on my nerves. Even Dani has had enough. Let’s move on…

Jamie’s Got Tentacles

Double take? Yes; I read that wrong the first time I saw it. However, this show is indeed a load of bollocks. Jamie is actually an alien in disguise who befriends a kid called Erwin. “Off the wall” enough to keep you watching at least one or two episodes. Enough though.

Trucktown

Better than Super Wings but still falling over itself trying to be somehow educational.

All the characters are trucks – as you might expect. It has enough action to keep Dani entertained so on that basis I give it the thumbs-up. Reluctantly.

Pocoyo

A Spanish-British production written by a Spaniard – hence the name “Pocoyo” (little me). The main characters are Pocoyo, supposedly a 4 year old boy, Pato a yellow duck and Elly a pink elephant. There are lots of other characters, more than enough to fuel the toy stores.

This is real kids’ stuff but the younger ones seem to love it. Pocoyo was the first TV character that Dani knew. He used to watch this show and is still young enough to enjoy it ocsassionally.

 

First Full Week of School Begins

So the first week of school for Dani has come to an end.

On Friday the local TV channel (Telemadrid) filmed an article from the school. We were informed by email and were not sure if it was to be about a child’s first days of full time education or returning to school after the long summer holidays.

It’s going to be a long haul…

It was a short week of course just the three days to gradually ease the little monkeys into the swing of things. Only about another 2716 schooldays left before he can legally go out and find a job. Give or take a few days of course.  This is only a quick approximation.

It sounds a long time when put in those terms. It is indeed a long time. A full 14 years at least. I am not even sure whether in Spain they are allowed to finish school at 16 years of age or not. These things can change so not even Dani’s mum knows. There has been similar talk of raising the school leaving age to 18 in the UK in recent years. That may not be such a bad thing in principle but I cannot see it working in practice. Most kids just don’t want to be there – in some cases right from their first day to the last. Initially (when they are small) that will be because they want to stay at home. That is understandable for the little ones. By the time they reach secondary school many just want to get out into the big bad word and make their way.

Meet the teachers

On Saturday we had a chance to meet the teachers and staff at the school. It gave me the chance to understand what they do and have another look around. It is a nice school and I think he will be OK there once he settles in. It gave parents a chance to ask a few questions etc… Dani’s English teacher is an American lady, Miss Jennie. I wonder how long it is before he comes home using an American expression or accent. That might annoy somebody eh? I wonder who?

It turns out that the TV company filmed in one of the older classrooms. It seems that Dani’s TV debut will have to wait.

One of my concerns was that Dani is such a slow eater and we have no feedback into how much of his lunch he has eaten. The canteen is pleasant enough and the “ladies in white” assured us that he is not the only slow eater and that they help them when needed. The kids even have those partitioned metal trays. You know, those beat up looking divided dinner trays just like you see in the movies. Prison movies that is! It made me laugh anyway.

Onto the first full week…

It is already becoming like a day prison for Dani. Monday morning and he had no hesitation in saying it the moment he woke (or rather was woken). “I don’t want to go to school.” And this is only the start of his first full week.

He cried when he was dropped off and I feel sure it is now going to be more difficult. Reality has kicked in. He knows. Maybe he has worked out the number of days and is counting back from 2716 (or thereabouts)?

Time. Time. Time…

First Day of School – Done

Dani’s first day at school is over. Thankfully he seems to be completely fine. Not at all distressed and not even bothering to say that he doesn’t want to go back in the morning. Although when he has to wake up he will protest. That is certain. He happily trotted out of the school building as if there was never a problem this morning.

Was it an act?

In fact, he is completely oblivious to the fact that he was so distressed earlier. As if nothing had happened. As if it was all an act just to get rid of us and leave us worrying about him all day. Clever lad if this is the case. Manipulation by words and acts counts for a lot in the workplace. More so than a good education and plenty of hands-on experience – if all my years in industry has taught me anything. I am sure you all know what I mean. This is the world we are in and it isn’t going to change for the better when Dani has to go out and compete in the workplace.

School or Fight Club?

Although he seems happy-go-lucky he doesn’t want to divulge any information about his first day at school. It seems to be more like Fight Club than school. A great movie which oddly enough I have only seen once. Even if you haven’t seen the film you may well be familiar with the rules of fight club.

First rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.

Second rule of Fight Club: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

There are 6 other rules but you get the point right? He does not want to talk about school.

Toilets…

While he didn’t speak of school itself he did say one thing about going to the toilet. It seems that the “ladies in white” help the kids when they have to go. The kids are supposed to be toilet trained before starting school in Spain even though many may not even be three years old (like Dani). However, wiping a kid’s arse is clearly beneath the teachers. This is where the “ladies in white” come in handy.

Actually I can sympathise with the teachers. They have their hands full with those little midgets.

And so, Dani is fast asleep and we shall see tomorrow morning if he does not eat his breakfast, refuses to put his uniform on and complains that he does not want to go to school again…

 

First Day of School – Emotional

We have just left Dani in his new school. The last we saw of him he was being carried outside to the play area (referred to as the “patio”) to be shown the balls and toy motorbikes.

A good start…

It all started off quite well. He woke up early as if he knew today was going to be different. He ate some breakfast and was dressed in his new uniform. Everything was happy and calm. Even when we arrived at the school he was still quite content. Possibly more taken aback by all the other new arrivals and their parents. Inside the noisy reception area there were a few older looking women dressed in white nurse’s uniforms. Not sure if they are actually qualified nurses or just some other sort of medical assistants but they were dressed in crisp white uniforms with the nurse’s hats. The old fashioned kind of uniform. It all seemed a little surreal to me. One flew over…

It was busy and there was a small amount of queueing required before Dani was shown to his allocated classroom. Inside most of his new classmates were already there, all with their name tags pinned onto their shirts. One little boy (I think it said Jaime on his tag) was crying in the arms of a “nurse” as she was taking him out through a rear door supposedly leading to the “patio”. One flew over…

Dani seemed to be settling in or at least giving that impression. The teachers were trying to engage the children with various games and toys to distract them while their parents sneaked off to work. Jaime returned in the arms of the “nurse”, no longer crying. Looking more dazed and confused than anything. Meanwhile a different assistant/nurse carried another child out back presumably to be calmed down. One flew over…

Reality kicks in…

Finally it dawned on the poor boy. He was going to be left there and we were not just having a quick visit. He began to cry and begged both of us not to go. One or two of the teachers moved in to try to distract Dani with books and questions about what he liked. The first stage of distress control. The nurse who had carried Jaime out back moved closer realising that Dani was going to let it all out. My heart grew heavy and I realised we would be leaving him in a very upset state. But leave him we must and we were now looking for a way to sneak out. Not that he wouldn’t notice we had gone of course. The nurse picked Dani up and carried him off to the “patio”. One flew over…

He was in tears and quite upset but that was our chance. We left the building and I felt terrible. That was far more upsetting for me than I had expected.

So now he knows…

For sure tomorrow will be worse. I can’t see him wanting to get dressed never mind eat breakfast. He now needs to eat breakfast before school because unlike the nursery where they were given an early morning snack the kids do not eat till lunchtime at this school.

It seemed to be more like an emotional distress control scene than a classroom. The only things missing were Jack Nicholson and a big Indian Chief. One flew over…

I am trying to see the funny side but it was quite upsetting for my poor little boy. Hopefully by the time I have written this he will have settled in. Hopefully…

As always, time will tell…

School Looms Large – A Key Milestone for Dani

Tomorrow is a big day in the little man’s life. It will be his first day of full time school.

Still over two months to his 3rd birthday but yes; he has to start full time school and I still think it is ridiculous. I discussed this some time ago in previous posts (Schools-Part-1 for example) so I won’t go over old ground.

Dani loves everything (well most of the time) in that innocent child-like way and we are sending him off to school from 9 till 5 when he has only recently graduated from the nappy to the toilet seat. It is a long day for the little fella and it still doesn’t feel right to me. But this is perfectly acceptable in Spain. Expected of course. It is the norm. I am reminded of that famous Supertramp track – The Logical Song: “Then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical…” Not one of my favourite Supertramp songs but taken from one of their two best albums (in my opinion) and one that I own. How many times I must have heard that song! I feel guilty now that I will be packing Dani off to school.

My first day…

I just hope he likes it as much as I enjoyed my first day at full time school. Although of course I was almost twice his age! I had already been to nursery – or play-school as it was known back then. Not that full time school was not all about play. I remember in detail my first moments of full time school. All the mums dropping their kids off. Some kids clinging like barnacles to their mothers and screaming not to be left there. I can remember walking in and seeing all the toys, games and books there and thinking ‘This is great. They let you play with all these toys and books. What’s not to like?’. I thought ‘why on earth are these kids crying like they are being sent to be tortured? What is wrong with them?’

I hope more than anything that he does not get stressed out by it all and does not end up crying for his mama (or mummy as he now often calls her) because he can be very strong willed and if he does not like something he will take some calming down. Still I am sure that he will not be the first hard case they have had to deal with. That is what they get paid to do and they do charge enough for the privilege.

Time will tell…

The most likely outcome I think is that he will appear fine on his first day but will show far more resistance the following day(s)….

Poor little boy. I do feel sorry for him though. It really is too young for such a challenging full on day of school; play or otherwise…

I recently checked his timetable online. Most days start with German classes. How crazy is that? I could say plenty of things about it. Like the fact that some of Dani’s forefathers fought (and won) so that all of Europe does not have to speak German. Well at least that is one un-politically correct take on it. In any case he may like it and that would be another language skill– which is of course the whole purpose of exposing kids to those classes at such an early age. Or so they say… Time will tell.