Once a year, when our oldest son is the monitor of the class (protagonista de la setmana), we are allowed to enter into the classroom during school hours. Many parents enjoy this opportunity to see how the children interact, but I think that we as expats parents appreciate it more than most. For language reasons, our four-year-old is a bit more reserved than his classmates, but he radiates with pride when we support him to take centre stage.
Today he was especially happy not only since my wife and I both turned up, but also because we were to talk about Sweden. Officially, he has never lived there, but three long summers stays with his grandparents have left lasting memories.
So how did we present our country? Well, we started off from stereotypes about cold, snowy landscapes and vikings, but then added details to the picture by talking about our national holidays (les festes) and animals. The children seemed to like our midsummer dances 'små grodorna' and 'små grisarna' (songs about froggies and piggies). “Costa una mica” ("That is a bit difficult"), one of the pupils reacted when we taught them that piggies in Sweden say “nöff”.
Finally, we had brought coloured papers, pipe cleaners, foam balls and drinking straws so that they could all make small Swedish Easter witches to take home. To have 25 children making these at the same time was hard work – we would never have managed without the support of their teacher.
My two observations are both related to the fact that we are foreigners in Catalonia. Firstly, I can not help being fascinated about how early in life children understand who is a foreigner. Last year some of our son’s class mates knew that he is Swedish. Today when I asked, they all knew. Secondly, children at this age have started to learn patience – only a year ago the same group of children was easily distracted – and listen to us although we speak with an accent, make mistakes and sometimes mix Spanish words into our Catalan. What a rewarding audience.