Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Lost in Translation


My darling two-and-a-bit-year-old son has started at a little German playgroup four mornings a week. It is a Waldkindergarten, which means the children spend as much time outdoors as possible, whatever the weather. Most days he goes togged up in his rain-gear since it is, naturellement, raining. They do have a room where they can retire to play if the weather is completely foul, but the kindergarten guarantees a minimum of half an hour spent outside every day, come rain, snow, hail or monsoon. When the weather is good, they are out all morning long.

All this exposure to fresh air has had the wonderful benefit of Ollie’s sleeping like a log all afternoon. He often falls asleep on the way home in the pram, and if not, then during his lunch or immediately after. He is one tired baby.

Another benefit is that he starting to speak German. In English, he is already a verbal guy (future girlfriends will be happy about this), who talks about his feelings (“I luf you, Mummy”) and expresses his needs (“I need milk. I NEED it!”), so it’s been fascinating to witness his German arrive. In five weeks he has gone from single words (ja, nein, Auto, Polizei) to sentences.

Today, after I had changed his nappy, he stood up on his changing mat, tenderly stroked my cheeks, looked deep into my eyes and declared, “Du bist meine Papa.”

Given the way he feels about his dad, this is the highest of compliments. I am honoured.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

18 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

  1. I’ve heard of these kindergartens – they sound like a great idea. I’m glad Ollie is enjoying it and that you now have child-free mornings.

  2. So sweet. And funny.
    That’s awesome that his kindergarten is so intent on spending time outside.

  3. Ah! A Shakespearean actor in the making. Go Ollie, go. A rose by any other name… Bet his comment brought tears to your eyes.

  4. Wow. I’ve always wished our family was bilingual. On the other hand, I’ve no wish to swap supermum. Tricky.

    How does it generally work – do you think if he grows up in Germany, he’ll end up thinking mostly in German? Or do you speak English exclusively in the home?

    Sorry – multilingual families fascinate me – we were at friends’ house yesterday – he’s Chinese, she’s Koren and their children go to school in England. I’ve heard the kids addressed in all three languages in the space of twenty minutes!

  5. I agree, that kindergarten sounds like a great idea – kids really should spend loads of time playing outside, it should stand him in good stead (as will his bilinguality, though I bet I’ve just made that word up).

  6. Sounds fantastic. Do the mums hang around at this playgroup, or is it more like a preschool arrangement where you leave him for the morning?

  7. Forest kindergartens are so wonderful. I have a book about a similar kind of school in Denmark called Nokken, where the children truly spend most of their time outside, even napping in prams! I think all children would naturally thrive in that environment…my kids are always whining to go outside.

    And yes, you have been truly honored by little Ollie. Between “I luf you” and “meine Papa” you are definitely the star today!

  8. Oh, how very wonderful! What a delight he is!

  9. Kit, the Waldkindergarten is wonderful. Daisy attended it too, and loved it. I am also enjoying my time off.

    Welcome back, Shokufeh! I haven’t heard from you in a long time. Yes, this kindergarten is a very special place.

    Lilalia, my boy brings joy and laughter. He is delightful.

    Hi there U-Dad. We aren’t a bilingual family, we are all English inside. My kids are becoming bilingual by operating in a German environment, and they are doing brilliantly at that. However, I do know lots of bilingual families, and they sometimes struggle to establish what the core family language is. In many ways, we are lucky.

    Trousers, they are so happy outside and they don’t mind the weather. I once heard that Norwegians say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Ollie has a broad range of weather-appropriate clothing.

    Bindi, to my joy, I drop him off and collect him three hours later. He has fun and I have time off. Win-win.

    Henitserk, this KG is a special place. They only take 10 kids, and two places are reserved for children who are disabled. It’s a very gentle, very loving place.

    Simonne, he is a gorgeous little person.

  10. That is so incredibly cute! What a little darling!

    I love the sound of that kindergarten. It would be right up Kiko’s street, especially if mud and sticks feature along with playing outdoors!

    Wah, I bet it is so lovely to hear him speaking German. I wish Kiko was bilingual but I fear we’ve missed the boat there.

  11. Oh my God, that brought tears to my eyes. Such praise for Mummy!

  12. very endearing. considering that most kids stick to “mommy ” (or “mama” in germany) for a long time before they start referring to “papa”, you’re probably right feeling honored.
    the waldkindergarten sounds nice. sometimes i wish the kindergarten at the back of our house was somewhere in the woods. or at least out of earshot.

  13. What a great post – I wish I could have seen that little exchange 😉 And how wonderful that Ollie will grow up bilingual. I always feel vaguely upset when parents have the opportunity to give their child the gift of being bilingual and don’t bother!

  14. Pingback: Little Match-Girl of Memes « Charlotte’s Web

  15. Aw, so sweet! Je bent een geweldige Papa, inderdaad!

    We are also an ‘English-inside’ family. Dutch-outside. I used to listen to people tell me that I should speak Dutch inside too, and I would just ignore them. Now I very firmly tell them that what we do inside our own home is for the benefit of our family and none of their business!

    My kids think in English but I’ve noticed recently that if they have any really life-altering questions they might ask them in Dutch. I’m not sure why. I think it comes from the 80% Dutch environment (that’s how much they are outside the home usually). Also, sometimes Dutch is more direct where feelings are involved.

  16. I LOVE sending my kids outside, where they belong. A little older, and into the woods they go! (with me of course-no one would leave kids in the rain at a daycare here! GASP!)

    And I love the “I NEED MILK!!!” I get that sometimes. Cracks me up.

    I love german. You’ve reminded me why I started trying to pick it up a few years ago. (a like for the language and a pompous desire to translate Rilke myself…)

  17. When he says “du bist meine Mutti”, it will be the complete success:)

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