Little Miss Independent – The Kita Fieldtrip

Little Miss Independent – The Kita Fieldtrip

A small child lays out in the grass on a towel. The photo is taken from at least 10 feet away.

Due to the pandemic measures that hung over our first year in Germany, we’re strangely experiencing a lot of “firsts” in our second year here. Today, N’s Kita (Kindergarten, but here it’s preschool) had their end of year field trip for her group. There was an email last week to tell us when the kids would be gone (most of the day) and a reminder to pack additional snacks, water, and sturdy shoes. There was no permission slip. There were also no parent chaperones. All five teachers went with the 25 kids, according to N. They took a long walk to a Bach (a small stream) “a ways away” from Kita. Then they played in the water, ate their lunch, and walked back.

It was a long walk, and fun, and hot, she reported to me as I biked us home. When I told her that I needed to go get groceries for dinner, N informed me that she didn’t want to go to the grocery store with me, because she was tired. H was home in the office, so I was more than happy to deliver her home. But no, she didn’t need me to go all the way upstairs with her. She asked me to walk with her from the garage to the main floor, where she then walked up three flights of stairs and rang the doorbell. I left to walk to the store. I also called my husband while she was walking up the stairs to let him know what was happening. You can take the American and move her to Germany, but she’s still going to panic a bit when her kid does stuff for the first time.

If I sound like this field trip is surprising, it’s not. This isn’t the first trip she’s taken with Kita. Nearly weekly, they take walks to nearby parks to “look at the nature” and learn things about plants, or so she tells me at dinner time. We never hear about these trips. Once, with Kita, they walked to a park over a kilometer away, and we only learned about it when H took her there for the first time. He was informed that she’d already been there before, with her school. She’s gone to the theater – we knew about that one, since we had to pay for the ticket – and “taken the bus to the forest” – we didn’t know about that one.

N just finished her second year of Kita, she’s a “midi”. Next year is her last year, she’ll be a “maxi” at school. German kids start school later, Kindergarten – what we call Kita for short – is all preschool here. They don’t start elementary school until they’re six. I am proud of her independence, and yet, a part of me aches for the days when she needed me. Oh sure, she still needs me sometimes. But more and more, it’s “don’t walk too close” and “I can do it on my own” and “watch me do this all by myself”. German preschools foster this independence from a young age, in fact, I know that in some areas, the kids go on overnight camping trips in their Kindergarten. Again, without parents and only with teachers. Strange to think that less than 6 years ago, she was fully dependent on me for everything, and now, she’s off on adventures I only hear about hours or days later.


Another Spin Around the Sun

Another Spin Around the Sun

The author and her daughter at the beach. She had dark curly hair and is wearing a blue-green tank, the daughter is blond with rainbow stripes on her top. All around them is white sand.

It was my birthday in August, and with it, I am squarely in my mid-30s now. In some ways, I feel very old (hello, TikTok stars, how are you all such babies?!) and in other ways, I feel like just gotten to a point in my life where I feel aware of who I am. I am more confident in making decisions based on my desires, and not the whims of the media or outside influences. This ability ebbs and flows though, I am not impervious to outside influence.

The last year was full of artistic and professional burnout. There was a point in there, when I debated never picking up a camera again. I couldn’t find joy in my chose craft at all. So, I stepped back from photography. I finished renovating, painting, and then sold the home I thought we’d live in for decades. I packed our lives into boxes, put them on a ship, and moved across the world. I started writing again, I went back to playing the piano, I started painting and designing and making digital art. I did nothing. I read a bunch of books. I danced in the kitchen.

We spent months without seeing anyone outside our home, with our only contact being on a screen. There were days in the past year when the weight of the world at large, and the world at home, was enough to crush me. To keep me from wanting to get out of bed. To make me question the very fabric of who I am, and what I’ve dreamed of. On those days, I questioned every decision I’d made in recent years, but especially the ones that led to us living abroad. And on other days, the path felt very clear and focused. Clarity in one area of my life often leads to clarity in another area as well.

As I posted earlier this year, I reevaluated my entire wardrobe after we moved. I’ve been working hard to slowly add only pieces I love to my wardrobe, and to shop from smaller, sustainable, and more local, brands as much as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but as much as it’s hard work, I do enjoy knowing that I’ve carefully selected all the pieces that I’m adding into my closet.

And as we venture out into the world at large, as things have reopened and we make more plans for the future, I am also reevaluating where I spend my time, my money, and my energy. Trying to figure out my next steps for work and life, and finding my own voice again. I’ve stopped fighting it when I have the urge to deep dive into something, and instead, embrace it. I research the heck out of something, and then, when I’ve found my answers, I can securely move forward.

I’ve made another trip around the sun and come to the realization that I’m most likely not neurotypical, and that it both makes quite a bit of sense, and doesn’t surprise me much at all. I’ve realized that making new friends is like speed dating and that’s made it easier. I’ve decided that I’m going to conquer my fears and say yes more. I’m going to try things and tell myself it’s okay to suck at them. I’m going remember to make mistakes and not get tangled up in mental self-flagellation afterwards. I’m going to teach myself – and the little human I’m raising – that mistakes are normal, that being perfect isn’t the goal, that joy can be found in the darkest of days, and that the little moments are the most important.

About a year ago, I started asking N to tell me a good thing every night, and we do a bad thing as well. At first, it started as a way to find small joys in the midst of a life changing pandemic. And then, it became a way to remind us both that happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light (Harry Potter). And then, it made me realize that it was a way to know my child better. To know what brings them joy, and to find ways to turn the bad moments around. To find the things that really matter (spoiler alert: it’s time with friends, ice cream, Story Time on Zoom, and calling her grandma) so that we can keep finding that joy in life.

So, in a way, I guess my 4 year old has taught me one of the greatest lessons of the past two years. Figure out what little things make you happy every day, and keep doing them. If you can’t think of one thing that made you happy that day, you need to reevaluate your priorities.