‘I don’t want to go to school,’ wails my eldest.
‘I’m not going to school either,’ echoes my youngest.
‘Why not,’ I ask my eldest and try to tune out the barrage of whining that comes from my youngest, something about if her sister doesn’t go then she shouldn’t have to go because that’s not fair etc, etc.
‘I want to go to an English school,’ she says and then bursts into tears. ‘I only have one teacher who speaks English, they all speak Dutch.’
‘Are you having trouble understanding what they are saying?’
‘Does it feel really hard?’
‘Yes,’ she wipes her face and then tightens her jaw. ‘I’m staying home.’
‘You are both going to school. I know it’s a hard thing. I have my dutch school today, and it’s really hard. I haven’t done my homework and I don’t want to go, but I need to. Sometimes we have to do hard things. Remember when you started kinder, you didn’t want to go, but after a while, you loved it. And when you changed classes, you didn’t want to. That was another hard thing, but you did it, and you know, after a while you loved that too. And then when we came to Amsterdam, you started at a new school, and you didn’t want to do that either. But you stuck with it, and now you miss it, that’s how much you grew to love it. Let’s give this school a little more time, you know, you might grow to love this one too.’
‘I’m not going.’ She folds her arms across her chest.
‘Today is a hard day,’ I say pushing my chair up from the table and going to her, ’but we’ll do it together.’
Half an hour later, we have argued about getting dressed, brushing our hair, brushing our teeth, putting on our shoes and jackets and hats, I still have not eaten breakfast but we are in the bike and we are going to school.
Perhaps we are actually asking too much of her sending her to a bilingual school, or maybe this is just something we need to ride out. When I get home, I potter around the house putting everything away, desperately trying to create some semblance of order. Maybe it’s not about taking her out of the Dutch school but rather finding a gentler pace for her. And maybe, to give her some sense of control, we could agree to review it in two months, that’s usually how long it takes her to adjust to something new.