We have been living in Dutch suburbia for a few years now and our kids attend Dutch schools. I attend a Dutch evening class and am slowly picking away at the wall of sound that is Dutch.

It has been a long and arduous path to get the kids to adapt to their new language. I know some kids ‘just switch over’ to their new language.

Ours didn’t. It took time.

It also required a fair bit of grindy effort and a lavish amount of actual learning. Finafuckinally our kids are speaking and understanding Dutch. I’m trailing by miles behind them.
They know it.
I know it.
We are ok with it.

It turns out that the 3 year old has the highest level of fluency in the house. She speaks at an alarming pace. If she doesn’t know a Dutch word, she flings the English word in. If she doesn’t know the English word, she invents one and continues her daily 13-hour-long-stream-of-consciousness interspersed with various costume changes.

The 5 year old has stoically learnt the language. One phrase at a time. Refusing to speak it until it was right. He’s cautious and now he has the most dependable level of understanding and phrasing. He is very embarrassed by my language abilities.

Unfortunately our new found language confidence and awareness rides on a wave that is about to crash on the shore of the summer holidays, where everyone and their dog goes away for vakantie. It’s taken very seriously here.

This means that where we live becomes a little bit like a ghost town holiday park. I’m at a loss as to how we can maintain our fledgling fluency (them, not me. I’m still crap).

The summer camps are too big a step for us.
Our last Dutch private tutor wasn’t very successful and her scheduled hour became an exercise in survival, poor woman.
We have an amazing, capable babysitter but she is on Vakantie. Of course.

I’ve promised them that they can watch all the Dutch telly they can wrap their eyeballs around. We can listen to Dutch CDs in the car. For actual real live people, the local library does a story time once a week.

There are random neighbourhood kids we’ll play with along the way. Mind you, in this scenario one of two things usually happens:

The 5 year old needs a bit of helpful mama prodding to get introduced and start playing, and I make the little kid nervy with my dodgy Dutch and helicoptering.

The other alternative is that the 3 year old explodes in on the scene and scares them away with her ratty blonde wig, interesting mix of languages and mental clothing.

We went through a stage of attempting playdates, but I fizzled them out. The last time I ended up having to resort to google translate on the Ipad. I needed to tell the tiny little wildling to stop scaring my kids. He didn’t come back. God knows what I actually said to him. Thanks Google!

Where we live has countless playgrounds, outdoor adventure spaces, lakes and forests. We can bike around safely and if the Dutch summer sorts itself out, we can basically have a 1950s summer holiday while staying put.

This suits us just fine.

Our kids don’t do very well with location change or too many people. They like structure, routine and a predictable schedule. I struggle to button down my spontaneity and general belief in winging life, to keep them sane.
To help them feel safe.
To stop the meltdowns before they germinate.

I have a plan.

The plan involves a weekly schedule whiteboard. We’ll write up what we are doing for the week. No surprises, nothing scary there.

I made a daily structure board. It has interchangeable velcro pictures and everything. Totally mama-smug ‘NAILED IT’ about that one. (But then the 3 year old likes to swap the pictures around when no one is looking, and that makes the 5 year old’s brain explode. Oh well.)

I’ve piqued their interest in picking a place on the map and going to see what it looks like. It was hard explaining why we couldn’t visit the North Pole any time soon though.

I’ve stocked up on coffee and wine.
I am considering CBD.
I bought some Kalms.

Wish me luck
Or cringe along with me, I’ll share how it goes……

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We lived in the Netherlands with our two differently wired kids before all moving to Yorkshire. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all that Sheffield has to offer.

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