Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Pre-school Playdates in Sweden (or just in my weird neighborhood)

I have to admit I’ve never had a pre-school age kid in the US, so most of what I understand of the culture over there I have learned second-hand from friends and family. But my current experience with a now 4-year-old Little Swede means learning to make playdates in Sweden, and man it is a jungle out there!

Things were tricky from the get go. I can’t say it is the Swedish parents of the kids at Little Swede’s pre-school, because most of the kids there are ‘mutts’ like mine (half Swede, half something else), but the parents at this pre-school just don’t talk to each other. Now I am shy, and appreciate the Swedish attitude of ‘don’t feel obliged to talk to anyone as it’s not necessary and often uncomfortable’ most of the time because I am naturally shy and totally an INFJ on the Myers Briggs scale (which might explain why I like it here so damn much). But even I think saying ‘hi’ to people who you have something in common with like ‘hey our kids go to the same school’ is a nice touch and not a social burden.

But fine. The parents maybe mutter out a little hello, if forced. Some insist on staring at the ground and pretending that they just didn’t hear you. And thus I was pretty terrified of how we would breech the whole ‘Hey my kid wants to play with your kid, can we make a play date?’ subject. I mean Little Swede plays with the neighbors, but he LOVES his classmates and asks about them CON-STANT-LY (as 4 year olds are incredibly gifted at doing).

So I agonized over ways to approach some of these ‘stare at the ground, whatever you do don’t make eye contact’ kind of parents. Put a letter in the cubbyhole with our contact information? Try to catch them in person at drop-off/pick-up? Arrange a telephone contact list by pinning a note on the back of the door? Which would be the least antagonistic way to make sure Little Swede could hang out with some friends?

Thankfully before I had to make a decision I received a text message. Apparently that is how you make play dates in Sweden. One of the ‘stare at the ground’ parents was too busy to say hello, but sent a text message implying that her 4 year old was badgering her equally about the need for a playdate, and might we possibly want to come over one day.

Apparently, the tactic she pursued was tracking us down on Gula Sidorna and then sending us a text message. Good to know for the future (although I am willing to shake things up a bit).

I really hope my pre-school is just a bit quirky in this department! How did your kids get Swedish playdates?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicken pox, vaccines and getting sick in Sweden

This winter has meant the chicken pox for our little Swedamerican family, and let me tell you, it has been an adventure.

In the US, the chicken pox vaccine is on the list of required vaccines to start school. In Sweden, it is not. (Thanks, Reinfeldt!)

My own thoughts about the chicken pox previously have been thus: It’s not a big deal. I had it. My brother had it. We all lived to tell about it. There are worse things in life – even if I had a pretty terrible case of it as a teenager.

We decided not to push for our kids to get the vaccine, unless they didn’t get the pox by the time they hit double digits.

The Swede, on the other hand, got the vaccine, as no one could remember if he had gotten the pox when he was a kid. We just had to pay out of pocket to get it done, it was not hard.

Anyways, Little Swede came down with the pox on New Years Eve. Sadly, we did not notice until New Year’s Day. Perhaps this makes us negligent. Let’s just say I noticed two pox right before he went to bed, had a quick flash of ‘I hope that is not….’ and then the next day he was covered.

Poor thing.

But having now gotten thru one 4 year old and one 1 year old with chicken pox in the course of a month, let me just say that I think the chicken pox vaccine is awesome. If I had to do it again I would be banging down the door of my BVC to get that shot faster.

Yes, maybe young kids do have it easier, but it was still really bloody awful. Little Swede was up watching Go Diego Go marathons at 4 am because it was the only thing that kept him from crying. I walked baby Swede around the house in the carrier for hours on end, all night long, because it was the only way he would sleep.

Also, since very few American kids still get the chicken pox, there is very little Internet crap about what actually happens when you do get the chicken pox. There is, for example, this moment on day 2-3 when you think ‘Oh, this is not going to be so bad’ before all hell breaks loose. And then there aren’t like 576 photographs of what it looks like when it is done --- ‘wait until they scab over’ they say, but it took quite a long time for them ALL to scab over, like 10 days.

At the end of the whole thing, Little Swede seems to have made it thru with only one scar on his face, and baby Swede seems to have made it thru in one piece. The Swede and I seem to have made it thru a week without more than an hour sleep in a row. And we are all, yes, maybe the stronger for it. But, a vaccine against all of that would have been nice, too.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sweden 2014

It’s 2014 and I’m trying to get back on my feet, back to this blog, get my shit back together – all kinds of getting back.

Right now I have big plans for this little abandoned blog.

I am still surviving in Sweden, sometimes barely.

I am still grateful for your emails – even if they are just to correct my sad excuse for spelling and grammar. Of which I do appreciate, and I do intend to correct, when I have a few free minutes. Which I seriously, seriously hope will be sometime soon.

Because the last few months have been crazy. All kinds of crazy. Good crazy, bad crazy and just plain insane in the membrane.

And yet here we are in February. Another round of Melodifestival. A sad excuse for Valentine’s Day. My favorite shopping week of the year, Book Rea (a countrywide book sale). Rain, drizzle and grey day ‘is spring EVER going to get here’ February.

Hope to see you around these parts. I have a lot of blog entries in my head. Hope to type them soon.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Being Jewish in Sweden

The subject is a difficult and complex one, but I thought this article in The Local was well worth checking out.  One of The Local reporters spends an afternoon wearing a Kippah or Yamaka in Malm√∂ and writes about the experience.

At the end of the day, most Jews in Sweden get by without a hitch because they ‘pass’. Most do not wear kippahs or a huge Star of David, they go about their day like everyone else. And they talk about religion as little as any average Swede.

Many blame the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden on the growing Muslim population, but I can say I have heard many blonde haired, blue eyed Swedes say things I would interpret as Anti-Semitic, including things like ‘Stop being such a Jew’ when someone wanted to buy a cigarette off of my friend and the price was to high, to ‘I don’t want to look at that f-n Jew!’ when Seinfeld came on TV once.

So yeah, there is a problem here, and it is not just imported Middle East tensions.

What is the answer? No idea. But read thisarticle to get a sense of just how troubled we should all be about the situation. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Sweden today like 1950s America?

Part of the reason my rather politically conservative dad is actually happy I am living in a socialist wonderland, is, bizarrely, because he thinks Sweden today is like 1950s America – at least the good stuff 1950s America – minus the fun design, giant cars, and sexism.

It is an interesting perspective, especially given a lot of the different cultural baggage. Do you agree?

Obviously the similarities do not include the role of women in families, but instead the attitude towards family – or in his mind the idea that:  

Everyone gathers around the dinner table at night, over a home cooked meal. It doesn’t matter who cooked the meal, or that both parents work, but that everyone is home around 5 pm and can relax and enjoy family time together. Also, restaurants are for special occasions, or lunch, not for every single meal.

Children play outside. In our neighborhood you see kids of all ages jumping on bikes (OK, now with helmets) and riding to school by themselves. You see kids in groups stopping strangers and asking to pet their dogs. Kids are dirty and climbing and running without a parent in sight. There is a freedom to childhood that he remembers, that he tried to give us, although already then a bit limited, which has almost disappeared from American childhood today, that he sees kids here enjoy.

Middle management is AOK – Most Swedes my dad has met have a comfortable middle class existence. They have worked hard and they have a good job and are happy. They are not trying to ‘climb their way to the top’ – they have settled in the middle. They do not need to ‘earn their keep’ they are valued employees. The idea that you can have a rewarding career and life and ‘settle’ for middle management seems to have evaporated from the radar for many Americans… especially those in larger cities. As salaries and benefits for middle managers disappear, you have to climb higher and higher just to live a middle class lifestyle.

You can retire at 65 – Many of my Dad’s Swedish friends (yes he has a few, he’s been coming to visit for a long time) have all retired. My parents have not. They could not survive where they live on their pensioners income alone, so they continue to do a bit of work on the side in order to maintain their lifestyle. Yes it is a choice, mostly because they chose to be self-employed, but still, they don’t have the pension to fall back upon that their Swedish friends have.

Can Sweden maintain this 21st century meets 1950s vibe? I find chinks in the armor every day, but I certainly hope so. And I guess I kind of agree with him, and am glad he likes where I live and understands why we chose to live here.