I’m your friend!

Charlotte had her first week at school last week. She is in the second grade. Sammy’s Kindergarten started yesterday. The kindergarten kids had an extra week of summer vacation. Summer vacation in India runs from April 1 to the end of May, during the hot months prior to the monsoon.

(Incidentally, NRIs newly arrived in North America are probably confused by the usage there of the term “Indian Summer” to refer to the warm weeks of early autumn. Sorry guys, “Indian” in that case means native American, not south Asian.)

What surprised me is how open the kids are to the foreigners in their midst. At lunch on the third day of school, a teacher asked her if she had made any friends yet. Charlotte replied “not really” and this triggered a chourus of “I’m your friend”! The kids at her school are really amazingly open. There may be a bit of a fair skin bonus – Indians regard fair skin as beautiful – and some of the kids are children of former NRIs – a surprising number were born in the US, but even then I’d expect kids to shun someone who is not like them. Instead, Charlotte is very well accepted. This has been one of the pleasant surprises of our time here so far.

I have to say that she has really surprised us with how open and brave she has been. Even on the first day of school when we drove her to school in leau of her taking the bus, she seemed happy to see us leave. When I visited the school today, I saw here in the cafeteria. She seemed to already be integrating herself into a clique of friends.

With Sammy, I think the road will be a lot tougher. We took him to his first day of kindergarten yesterday and he was extremely clingy – physically as well as phycologically. Daniela actually spent the whole school day there yesterday. This morning, he went in by bus and I met him there to check on him. As soon as he saw me, he grabbed on to my leg and would not open himself up. He was using me as a crutch and my presence was blocking him from settling in. Eventually, I slipped away. This was a tough decision. The first time I had tried to leave, he locked onto my leg and started crying. The only option would have been to forcibly restrain him and that would not have been good. He was not going to settle in until after I left either. He has to get over that hump. It will be especially difficult as in his German kindergarten, he mostly just plays in the building corner and avoids group activities when he can. His friendships there have been built up with other boys who also hide in the building corner. He won’t be able to do that here. Either it will help him, or it will be excruciating. Time will tell.

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