It took us 6 months to get barnehage (kindergarten) places for the kids.
Those 6 months were wonderful, it was like a second shot at maternity leave but without the exhaustion and the boob feeding. My husband was working every day and the kids and I were up and out to playgrounds, forests, islands, Oslo sights, if it was happening we were there.
But then the time came to get involved, the kids needed to find friends and we all needed to increase integration efforts. My son was first to get a barnehage place which was in a regular state barnehage like the majority of those all around the country here. For various reasons, he didn’t settle there. He was used to being a little fanned-out peacock in the kindergarten back in London and here, his tail was firmly stuck to the ground. He and the other kids talked away to each other but didn’t understand a word. He could neither impress nor inquire. He had enough after about 23.5 minutes.
Then my daughter was allocated a place in a local nature barnehage and that changed everything. It was a private barnehage but we didn’t really know what that meant at the time as they are all managed through a central state application process. We went to visit it one day before she started and we fell in love, in so far as you can fall in love with a bright warm chaotic building with nice people inside it. You know when it feels right and you start to breathe a little easier.
Most of the staff could speak english and immediately started to interact with the kids. I could see the barriers fall away and they had fun with people other than their parents for the first time in 6 months. It was a big deal. So we immediately started the process to get my son transferred.
I got the kit list for what my daughter would need before she started. Not yet 2 years old at the time, she would need a sleeping bag that translated to me as being warm enough for the Arctic. “Why is that?” I gently enquired as the barnehage was really warm that day and seemed to have no obvious missing windows or roof.
“Because she will be having her daily sleep over there” said the nice teacher, pointing to the soon to be very familiar “gapahuken”. This was a low-roofed structure in the yard which looked like a shed, albeit a very nice timber shed, that someone had clearly forgotten to finish as there was a bloody wall missing.
“Really?” I said with a croak. Oh God, my mother was right after all. Except it would be my daughter freezing enough for all of us.