The “barnehagen” in Norway is like daycare or nursery school in the US, except that it’s free for everyone (via our enormous tax dollars). But although you’re technically guaranteed a barnehagen placement by law, I’ve heard too many woeful tales to believe it. For example, you might get your place as promised, but it’s in a school across town from where you work, or you have two siblings in two separate schools at opposite ends of the city. Or you can have your place, but only beginning in August whereas your maternity period ends in February, thereby leaving you stranded for six months. The theory is great, but it sometimes falls apart in practice.
On the other hand, I love the concept because of the below photos – this is what you see around Oslo on a daily basis in good weather (and sometimes in rain… remember that there’s no bad weather in Norway, only bad clothing and lots of skoposer).
The Norwegian barnehagen lifestyle is unique because the kids are always out and about. No worries about liability or other nonsense you would have at home, they’re all dressed in florescent vests and out they go. I’ve seen them in the parks, walking down the sidewalk and overtaking the public trams and metros. Loud, rambunctious and lively without anyone complaining – how good it is to be a kid in Norway!
Now that Per Christian is reaching his first birthday, we’re looking for a similar environment down here in southern Canaria. There is a Norwegian barnehagen practically opposite Per’s hotel, which is a great option. It’s filled with Norwegian children and teachers, so I’m sure he’d feel right at home. It seems normal enough – toys around the room and someone keeping a close eye on the kids. It’s clean, convenient, has space available and is in our price range. Simple decision, right?
Not so much.
Yesterday I visited another option, one that I described to Per as the “Cadillac of barnehagens.” It’s a 20 minute drive from our house to the town of Maspalomas, and wow – it was impressive. A big open space with children as young as three months and as old as three years from all over Europe, including Norway, UK, Finland, Germany and Spain. The working language is Spanish, but they do teach some English and German songs when they’re in the oldest 3-year group.
Per Christian was taken to the “La Luna” playroom for children under one year while I had my tour of the school. When we came back 20 minutes later, he was staggering across the floor in one of those baby walkers (which we don’t have at home), sharing a toy with another boy in the group and looking at me with the hugest smile. In typical Marguerite fashion, I did a very poor job of hiding my tears. (I can’t even blame this on post-pregnancy hormones anymore, I’m truthfully just a bucket of emotions wherever my son in concerned.)
So this option is also nice, they have space available, it’s in our price range, but it is not convenient. I know my mind is already made up though, I noticed it as soon as Per started questioning the school last night and I kept defending it even though I’d only spent one hour there during the day. My gut says this is the best place for Per Christian, but it really makes no logical sense since our perfectly good Norwegian option is right around the corner.
It’s kind of like the car decision we made last year – we ended up going for what we wanted even though it wasn’t necessarily the smartest choice. For better or for worse, this is a typical Svendsen family decision.making trait. I guess we haven’t suffered too badly from it in the past, but should we allow it to guide our big barnehagen decision as well?