Not so long after his 5th birthday, we got notification from the barnehage (kindergarten) that all of the 5 year olds were invited to stay overnight one Thursday in springtime. Outdoors of course, remember the gapahuken with the low roof and 3 walls? He would be sleeping in there in his woollens and sleeping bag with the other crazy 5 year olds. The teachers would be caring for them for the evening, cooking, telling them stories, policing the teeth washing and general 5-year-old-sitting for the night. The idea was to have some good old independent fun with a starry night thrown in hopefully.
On a slight aside, it’s amazing how chilled I have become here. I didn’t bank on the personality change that came with not knowing much and understanding even less. In a new language and culture, it is a constant case of giving the benefit of the doubt because you don’t feel free enough to ask the 50 questions that come naturally to you when in your own culture and language. I am Irish and talkative. I was used to finding out everything I needed and more almost by stealth, through harmless chatter and the ebb and flow of a conversation. I just can’t do that here. The Norwegians are not chatterers. Also, you never want to be THAT neurotic mother now do you?
So my Q & A for this important event went something like this.
To Son. Do you want to? Yes.
To Teacher. Have you done this before? Yes.
To Teacher, Did they all live to tell the tale? Yes.
OK then, we were in. It was the first morning in his short life waking up without at least one of his parents. If the teachers were brave enough to take him on, we were brave enough to let them.
And he had a ball. Picture it – a campfire, cooking on a campfire, singing, playing games, darkness, around 10 kids and NO PARENTS. The teachers took shifts to always have someone awake during the night as the kids slept. There were male and female teachers in the gapahuken with them, shoring up the outsides to keep them warm.
When I went to see him the following morning, he had grown in stature and independence. I met a happy boy. Well, one who promptly threw up after all of the excitement and had to take a day out to readjust his set, but that was surely a very minor point compared to growing 2 feet in independence overnight. I was very grateful to the teachers for giving him this. I was already mentally preparing myself for him moving out in a few years at the age of 9 or so…