I don’t often think about how different Maja and Janek’s childhood is to mine, or what it’s going to mean for their allegiances later on. Sometimes I wonder when they’re going to start correcting my Polish, but otherwise I’m too wrapped up in getting through the day to reflect much.
So I don’t even know how to name the feeling that came over me when I went to pick them up at pre-school on the Friday after Independence Day, and saw two smeary red and white Polish flags hanging on the art display board, signed with their names. A faintly fearful, faintly nostalgic feeling- things that I will never understand will be important to them.
I told them the truth, but they didn’t want to hear it.
NO little piggies. They from a TREE.
We live on the edge of Morskie Oko Park, and rare is the day when we don’t spend at least half an hour there. We walk through it to and from pre-school- we air the kids there, even now. In summer we lived there, spending the day in the playground and only coming home to sleep
This is our first autumn in this flat, and although it’s the insalubrious month of November, I love the park at this time. After the golden blaze of October, the palette is primarily brown. There is a stillness there, a leaf- muffled silence. A milky-pale sky gleams through the bare trees. Despite the melancholy weather, it’s always full of ecstatic dogs who don’t share their owners objections to the season. It smells like dirt and water, and the ducks, exiled by the winter draining of their pond lower down, come up onto the escarpment to graze like a herd of little goats on whatever they can find.
Now that the sun sets at 4 pm, it gets dark when I’m bringing the kids home from preschool on Fridays. They disappear on their bikes amongst the trees in the dusk, and usually as we climb the hill towards Pałac Szustry, the lamps come on. The kids feel the same way as the dogs about the park- for them it’s a source of endless wonders. They stuff their pockets with chestnuts, chase pigeons, spend all their duck bread on a hideous rat the size of a chihuahua which lives in the reeds near the claypit and which they call ‘mousie’.
Living next to the park, I feel more like an aristocrat than a poor man, even though we live in 60 square metres next to the busiest road in Warsaw.
I don’t know if it’s magic or some kind of very sophisticated exploitation of the employee, but when I am at work, I forget everything. I forget I have children. I forget I have a body, and am surprised and irritated when it makes its presence felt with signals from the bladder or protests of hunger.
Planning a lesson seems to me like the perfect creative form. You have some material you need to use, some constraints of form, and otherwise, the world’s your oyster. I love doing it and spend far too much time on it. You could try something new every lesson for your whole life if you had the energy.
A straw poll of my colleagues reveals that teaching has the same effect on them. They don’t necessarily consider it a plus of the job. Some of them think it is a peculiar kind of possession which keeps them from producing anything creative on their own account. Some think that this is why teachers burn out fast.
In any case, it explains why I haven’t blogged since the semester started. I’m resolved to change this state of affairs.
Well, I do. I am also quite interested in what you ate before you did it, what you thought while you were doing it, at what stage you wanted to die (hopefully this did occur at some point, and makes your run even more interesting to me), and how you plan to recover from it. I will even watch your rambling, self- congratulatory 15 minute youtube film about how you ran a marathon for the first time, if not with fascination, at least with attention.
So keep it coming!
This is what I am starting to feel for my children as I watch them handling preschool. I watch them strategising, trying to find ways to make it easier, and I stop thinking of them as toddlers who might spoil my morning with their guilt-inducing screams. They are serious small people, dealing with a situation they don’t always find easy with all the ingenuity in their power. I give them a stuffed possum each and tell them that when they feel sad they can hug it (when the kitchen ladies see them, they say ‘ooooh, what lovely rats!’). I hear Maja repeating this to herself in the mornings, her little voice saying over and over again ‘when I sad, I gunna hug my possum’ as we approach the preschool. I see the triumph and elation in them after the first morning- it’s clear as day that they are relieved and proud of surviving. For the first week, Janek hugs Maja while she cries. The second week, Maja tackles Janek and wraps her arms around him while he heads for the door. They struggle with the concept of bravery (I no brave, Mummy. I cry) and can’t wait to report back if they avoid tears.
They are moving into their own world. It’s hard for me to find out exactly what happens there- they like to tell me that they have chocolate and cucumbers every day, which I’m pretty sure is fiction. Part of their life is now taking place without us, and I see that they are ready for it, and that I underestimated them.
The kids have been at preschool for a week. Nothing has been quite as bad as the first day (Marcin took them alone, and didn’t have anyone to share the guilt with) but we leave every day with the wails echoing in our ears, feeling like the meanest bastards on earth. In this week, they seem to have grown up. After the first day, we are in the playground. Maja is complaining that a big boy is ruining her sand-bear that she is building. I tell him once to leave it alone, and afterwards say that it’s up to her. When I look up again, I see her standing there, arm over her sandbear, looking the destroyer square in the eye and saying Don’t TOUCH it. It’s MINE. Janek is standing beside her in solidarity.
Marcin sighs. They’ve lost their innocence, he says. We have been leaving them until lunchtime, and once again are being flooded with good advice- you have to get them at lunchtime for the first month, or they will be damaged forever- you should leave them for the whole day, or they will get used to half days and be pissed right off when the days extend…etc etc.
We are all getting used to it. We are getting used to being apart again, we are getting used to getting up early, we are getting used to going to bed at a respectable time. My going back to work has coincided with preschool in shocking way, so that after my time-rich August, I am suddenly back in a logistical whirl. Here’s hoping we accustom ourselves quickly.