The Schulanfänger Sleepover

| May 24, 2013

My kid is shy.  As you can imagine, this has made for a difficult transition since dumping her into a new kindergarten where everyone speaks a different language.  But that’s for another day…

Today we are talking about the Schulanfängers and their rite of passage: the sleepover.  Toward the end of every year, the children leaving kindergarten and beginning gradeschool (German kindergarten is multi-age) hold a sleepover at the school.  Tonight’s the big night!

But let’s first back it up a little:

Last Monday, I arrived at the school to pick up Sequoia.  As we walked out the door, she told me that soon, the Schulanfängers had to sleep at the school for 11 nights.

“Whaaaat?  Who said this?”

“The principle.  We had a meeting in the gym room.  I don’t want to sleep here for 11 nights, Mommy!”

I walked into the principle’s office and asked–in German–if there was something coming up when the Schulanfängers were sleeping at the school.  She said that the next Friday was a sleepover, and a letter would be going out about it on Wednesday.  Thinking that Sequoia had understood that the sleepover was Friday and only Friday, I turned and left.

We made it not one step out the door of the school and she fell apart.  Her face crumbled, there were tears, panicked breathing, and “But I don’t want to be away from Harry Potter for that long.”

In that instant, I didn’t realize she still thought it was an 11-night sleepover, so I said we’d talk about it in the car.  The panic mounted and the huffing and puffing growing more worrisome for my mildly asthmatic child.  And now it dawns on me that her “for that long” = for 11 nights.

“Breathe, Sequoia.  Do you think it’s for 11 nights?”

“Yes.  <huffing, sobbing, panicking>…I don’t want to sleep here for 11 nights!”

“It’s not 11 nights, Sequoia, it’s one night.  Next Friday night.  We can talk about it later.  We don’t have to talk about it now.  Just breathe and calm down.”

But the damage was done.  Her fear persisted in the car.  Clearly in her mind I was going to sign her over to the school for life.  (Note: “for 11 days” actually was the child’s understandable misinterpretation of “in 11 days”)

For the next 24 hours, there was NO WAY she was going on the sleepover.  I assured her that I was not going to make her do something that made her so uncomfortable.

Then came Wednesday.  I picked her up and she immediately asked, “Do we have marshmallows?”

“No, but we can get some.”

“I need them for the sleepover.”

“Okay.”  I decided I was not saying another word.  I didn’t want to jinx it.

By the weekend, however, again she wasn’t going.  “I don’t want to sleep away from you and Daddy, without a Mommy.”

“Some of your teachers are mommies.”

“I don’t want to sleep without one of my friend’s mommies.”

All this week has brought the same roller coaster of going/not going.  Wednesday night, I woke to her having a nightmare that Paul left her at the park and didn’t come back—presumably an abandonment dream tied to the stress of this sleepover.  Yesterday, she was firm: “I’m not going.”  I assured her I was not going to make her go, but told her I thought it was a shame that all of her friends would be going and she’d be the only one who wouldn’t be able to share in the excitement and talk about it with them now and next year when they reminisce about their Schulanfänger Übernacht.  Paul told her they’d miss her.

This morning, Sequoia woke up and came into my room.  “Mommy, I’m going to the sleepover.”


At breakfast, Sequoia reiterated that she is nervous, but we talked about how normal that is.  I then acted out how crazy I think she’ll sound tomorrow, telling us “and then we did this, and then we did that, and then Emma did this, and Analena did that, and I did this and we all did that…” She was cracking up.  She was going and could not wait.

We arrived at school and I noticed that all the Schulanfängers’ parents were carrying their sleeping bags and paraphernalia into the building.  Inside, parents were setting their kids’ sleeping areas up.  I had misunderstood, thinking we were to bring the items when we brought the kids at 5:00.  Apparently, that’s just the permission slip (which I tried to turn in last week).

Sequoia: “They told us to bring them in the morning.”  Thanks for the notice, kid.

And so I went back to the house, where nothing was ready.  Pack, back to school, set up her sleeping bag and pillow on a school mattress.  All the kids are freaking out watching everyone set up.  Sequoia is excited.

I return to pick Sequoia up at noon.  “Mommy, I don’t want to sleep here.”

After another talk about nervousness and her telling me how her friends are also a little nervous, she concluded that she is more excited than nervous.  And she can’t wait.  She’s going to this sleepover.

We shall see at drop-off time.

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Category: Ex-pat Parenting, FAMILY, In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Is German Kindergarten Right For My Child? Part Two | Germany Ja! | March 10, 2014
  2. Stamps of approval | In Germany, A Broad | October 18, 2013
  3. Panic over a Misunderstanding- from 24 May 2013 | Sequoia Spricht | October 6, 2013
  1. Jacki says:

    Poor little thing! I’m still nervous about sleepovers!