June 26, 2010

Au Pair “Work,” the Love of Children, and Other New and Interesting Things

Thank God for weekends. I feel like this week has been so long!

My first full week was jam packed with actual “work.” Or at least the equivalent of what work is for an au pair – babysitting, making dinner, cleaning up after kids, digging weeds out of a sandbox, filling up mini pools with water, constructing child size nylon tents, coloring, drawing fifteen different versions of Mickey Mouse, reading Curious George ten times, pigtail braids, picking up slugs off the floor, going to tennis lessons and putting clean laundry away. Yet, despite all of this, three nights of babysitting and complete focus on my duties and responsibilities, I still feel as if I haven’t done enough. It’s very hard trying to please the Frau, I can’t read her very well. I always feel like she’s accusing me of something. I know that this probably isn’t the case but either way, it’s really frustrating.

I know that German mother’s are very different from the one’s in the US so it’s hard not to feel as if she loathes everything that I do. Did I put the dishes back in the right spot? Did I make the mashed potatoes wrong? Did I give Eenie too much cereal? If this were my job in California, say working as an au pair for the Butler’s, a previous family that I used to babysit for, would I feel this way? Most days I feel like I’m imposing, even though she wants me there. I just feel as if I’m not meeting her expectations, whatever they may be. She never really went over any rules with me, she just tells me that I’m doing them wrong as they are broken. Like last weekend when I brought two girlfriends over to the house so that we could get out of the rain, she came down on me for not asking permission. Which is a viable request, I understand, but I just assumed that because Helen was the one relaying all the rules and expectations to me, that they stood for me as well. Apparently not. It’s a learning process. I am, by no means, trying to make it seem as if I hate it here because I don’t. Not at all. But part of the experience is learning from the bad parts, too. Some days are better than others.

The best part of this week’s “intense” work schedule is that I’ve gotten so much closer to the girls as a result. They love me more and more everyday. It’s not hard to win over five year olds but, regardless, I feel good that I’ve managed to make some progress. Both of the girls are so different from each other, Vee is much more mischievous and rebellious and she takes more risks. Eenie is much quieter (in relation to her sister, anyway) and is sweeter on me than Vee. She holds my hand and sits close to me and is always asking me questions. I have my moments with Vee too, but in different ways. Yesterday Vee wanted her nails painted so we had a little manicure session and then I sat with her so she wouldn’t get nail polish all over the furniture. They both lean on me when I read them books, one on either side of me, and it’s the smallest, most quiet, and appreciated moment. I store it away and it makes me smile. I love to feel the quiet affection of children, it’s such an innocent feeling. It makes me feel very strong and protective of them. I fall in love with every moment like this and I know how much deeper that will grow as time goes on.

On Wednesday I went with the family to the girls’ tennis lesson. It was held at the “country club” or the equivalent of what that stands for in America. Private courts, private membership, etc. I didn’t much more than sit in the grass and wait for some kind of direction. I’m not really sure why I was supposed to be there. I didn’t serve much purpose other than holding a bag and a restless hand. I played “futbol” with Eenie for a little while at the end but other than that, I was fairly useless. I was relieved to find that an American family had congregated behind me and they were playing and conversing in the only language that I can fully understand. Later, I learned that they had just spent a year in Monterey as the father was stationed at DLI for German language courses. It’s really cool how small the world really is. On Thursday night I met a girl from Milwaukee that loves Hanson. This subject came up because I was drunk enough to confess that Milwaukee reminded me of them (I've been sitting here too long by a man from Milwaukee) and she said, “I love them too!” Again, such a small world!

Hearing this family behind me was such a comfort because you don’t realize how much you appreciate your home language until you no longer hear it anymore. Pretty much everywhere that I go, I have absolutely no idea what anyone is talking about. I can usually guess the topic of conversation based on the venue or a few choice words that I can make out but most of the time, I have no clue. I’m immersing myself within it, though, which is a good thing. I have no choice but to understand it. It’s almost like it’s needed for survival. During the day, when I am out exploring by myself, all I want to do is go into little Munich cafes or biergartens and order the delicious looking food but I never do because I have no idea what any of it is. I can’t read the menus and I have no clue if the person working there speaks English. And if they don’t, how will I get my order out to them? It’s really frustrating but it’s something I’ll get used to. For now, I’ve just been going out for traditional food and bier when I’m with someone who speaks German or at least is familiar with the food menus. Eventually, I’ll understand and I’ll be much more comfortable in the city. But right now, it’s really overwhelming!

I was very homesick yesterday – mostly I think this was because I’d been stuck inside the house for most of the week and was getting a little stir crazy. I had no choice but to hang out on Facebook and look at the pictures of home that are plastered all over my walls. I was also very tired from a late Thursday night – I’d went out for ToyTown again and Jessica and I hit the town with high spirits. Which equals cheap Vodka from her refrigerator and Paulaner beer that we were able to take out onto the streets, seeing as open container and drunk in public laws don’t exist here.


I got home that night around 1 am and was passed out before 2. But after waking up at 8 to get the girls ready for school, I went right back to bed around 10 and slept until 1. Therefore, I was seriously dragging all day. I don’t function very well on cat naps. I was able to bike through the Englischer Gartens on Thursday afternoon though, and it was beautiful and so romantic. I love it there. My favorite pictures:


DSCN2487  Biergartens


Before I’d went into the Gartens, I’d spent about four hours doing official paperwork stuff with the Frau. We waited forever at the registration offices to get my visa finalized and my residence papers verified. I was so grateful that I took my book. I managed to finish it and have since started another. I like being here, if only for all of the literature I will be consuming.

Today is the start to a beautiful weekend here in Munich. At the current moment in time, I am waiting for Jessica to arrive so that we can take the bikes into the Englischer Gartens and picnic. Bier, cheese, and whatever else. It’s the perfect start to a beautiful day. The weekend should be full of excitement seeing as the USA plays in the World Cup tonight and Deutschland plays tomorrow. Lots of partying and celebrating (hopefully!). And I do love to celebrate!



Barry said...

I can't help but wonder when I read these things Heather, how much of it is expectations that others are placing on you and how much is expectations you place on yourself.

I'm glad though that you're enjoying Jessica's company and your surroundings. I found Germany to be one of the most beautiful of all European countries I've been to.

Barry said...

PS: If I haven't said it yet I think the girls are very lucky to have you as their au pair. You obviously care very much about them and their well-being, it sounds to me like you're doing a great job.

Sadako said...

Aww, cute pics. The mom sounds a bit scary--very stereotypically harsh German.

Dmbosstone said...

No open container laws? I wanna be there!

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