Swimming today, last day in school tomorrow

Getting the grades or written reports for your 3 children is a bit like learning a new thing, you just don´t know if you as a parent or your child has done enough. They have in their 4 months in school struggled to finish the later part of their year in another language, English, with new friends and new impressions from the surroundings and still they have to do it.

Midsemester was a pain. The new ways of learning and mixing that with making friends for “playdates” was so strenuous and a few time especially Joel wanted a day of. We struggled as good parents and the mini vacation we had planned was postponed as we din´t want to go away as we were trying to fix things, supporting especially the two smaller in many ways, but still let them do all the life learning and hard work. Our 14 year old simply made an excuse once in a while for not going to school and she and we were fine with that as we saw she achieved her results and studied harder than we had seen before.

In the last few weeks the kids have all said, in different occasions and not listening to each other that the really like their classes and will miss most of the kids. There have been specific friendships that will just have to be a bit of tars when breaking up. Anna and I also have those friendships with our new good friends. We will simply all miss someone. So what about the grades. Well yesterday they came at last and we were thrilled. Fanny has improved over the year and being 2nd or 3rd in her class in French, a language she didm´t study before August is a very good achievement and it was rewarded, of course with pride but also with paternal money.

Johanna has good grades in everything but needs some practice writing. Well I wonder were she got that from. Her grades in Indonisian that she didm´t know existed 4 month ago are well above average. She wants a horse as a bonus for being so good and I have promised her one if she learns Chinese. In Johanna’s world there is no difference Indonesian or Chinese, it is almost the same. Considering her grades she has really worked for her rewards, we´ll see on sunday

Joel got a remote controlled car as he had excellent reading skills and many other very nice grades. As he got it beforehand he wants a present now! I learnt that the hard way as a CEO, don’t give before you have seen the results AND give when you see the results. It is a better timing. How could I miss that? Well the biggest achievements of them all…Anna not calling everyday to check on every detail being the breadwinner and is working Good on you Anna! The other big achievement is Joel learning to swim the other day. He simply did 15 meters freestyle and then 25 meters on the back. When I said we should give his teacher a gift he said: “but you taught me to swim dad”…it warmed my heart. He also added but you do not need a present for that. He already knows. Feedback is not always best coupled with money, it is much more often stronger when coupled to a strong feeling of pride, and in this case love.

 

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A born singer – Nervous but well prepared

I often quote Winston Churchill “If you want to talk for a day you only need to prepare for 5 minutes, but if you are to speak for 5 minutes you need to prepare for a day”. Some of us understand that and it comes natural. I am not one of them, having a history of not preparing enough as it often becomes good enough anyway. But over the years challenges became more and more difficult and only the best preparations are good enough  Being 44 and having had different leading and teaching positions for the last 20 years the examples are many of both success and failure. The failures are always due to lack of preparation and not being focused enough. The successes are always due to a lot of thorough preparation. As this is not a blind spot anymore I do work hard and prepare – the devil is in the details!

For some it comes natural and for others it is a learnt behavior. A few years ago I invited ass. professor Martin Sköld to give a seminar for Proxima, the company I was CEO for at the time. He accepted and asked for access to my boss and to key personnel and I remember he was meet by a certain annoyance because of the very thorough preparation, that took time for very busy key executives. He spent hours and hours to understand the business, the company and to a certain extent the persons in key position. This is to me the defining moment that clearly showed that preparation is key to success. The evaluation after the seminars were 5.8 on a 6.0 degree scale.

Last week, or to be more precise, a bit more than 10 days ago Johanna 11 started to sing christmas songs, and especially the beginning of “we are the world”. She used her iPhone, set up the loudspeakers and practiced with background songs and with just the background music! She did it every day for ten days, and numerous times a day. I thought to myself that she will sing the whole song in the school pic-nic concert..but she wash´t she was singing the first two lines. And she was determined to do that perfectly. And she did. 

For her the hours and hours of preparation came natural and a thing that must be done, otherwise she might not be at her best at the concert. And how was it? Flawless and really beautiful and at least 5.8 on a 6.0 scale! 

Language

After 4 months in Melbourne I walk Joel to school discussing the rent of our townhouse. He is interested to know if 890 dollars a week is expensive or not. He wonders also why we have to pay to live in a house and he would like to know if I like the house or not. The last one is easy, the house suits us perfect, it is an intermediate living, that most would like. It is comfortable with 3 bedrooms and a large common area where all of us like to hang out on a rainy day. So, I like it! Is it expensive? Not really, again considering it is a top area in a growing city, and it is furnished. He tells me we could by a lot of toys, for example Chima Lego, for the money and we end up in a short discussion where to put the Lego if we don´t have a place to stay. This makes him wonder and after a short silence he smiles and says “Oh, I see”. The tricky part is this mornings task; How much do we have to pay for a month (4 weeks)? This particular morning we will not get to that answer as we see our neighbor and her father just in front of us, realizing we will very soon have a chat with them instead. The seconds before we great them I tell him we will do this “task” on the way back home. He answer me in Swedish and when seeing that Cathrine has seen us, he switches to English and greats them. The conversation is about today´s big topic, the classes will get to know who their teacher will be for next year. It will be an hour midday today when the meet up with him/her so they know who to see when they get back from their christmas holidays. Joel explains to us that he will play with some friends during that hour as he is heading back to Sweden in January. There is no need for him to attend that class.

4 months in a country when you are a language interested 6 year old is enough to get a new language at a level where most people would not recognize him being English speaking from birth. A good school (public) and a father on paternal leave, and a very focused mother, has given him the opportunities and especially the everyday practice to read, talk and write. Prof. Martin Ingvar says that some boys drift of in school and up to 24% of 15 year old boys can´t read a complex text. The only solution for them is practice, practice and practice! These boys can be detected early and their big chance in life is an interested teacher, in a good school. Leaving Joel and seeing all the boys ,and girls, line up for the weekly library session today gives me hope that the boys in Joel’s class, that I have noticed have some problems with reading, will get there eventually. 

A lot of work

It has been a few busy weeks. Not because of anything special more just because a lot of things ad up. The household is pretty straightforward and of course there are “mondays” and ordinary weekdays in Melbourne as well. With 3 kids who are used to someone picking up after them there are a few conflicts in between about putting clothes in the wash bin, not throwing the schoolbag just inside the door, at least not on your own shoes, and why take away the breakfast when they can do it later? Or I can do it later? My dad calls it being a Butler, and yes that is a pretty accurate description…but, I do like to teach them a bit of manners as well, not that I succeed. I guess I have to ask my wife about advice, but then again, she hash´t succeeded in those areas either so we might just do it together.

The last few days have been really busy work wise. Every day at around 5.30 PM the phone, that has been moribund for a while, starts to vibrate. The new job, my new colleagues, back in the cold motherland wake up and start to work. They realize they can´t call me after lunch so there I am in the middle of dinner and putting Joel to bed.

I do prefer the evening sessions instead of biking to work in 20 cm snow…and I start to get used to the great take away food. Today Vegetarian Indian 🙂

Springtime

When you are in Australia for 5 months you just expect some nice weather, go up in the morning feeling the sun heating up your house, walking to school with the kids in shorts and then head of to the beach 🙂 Well, it is not like that, we have a spring of rain, and what the Aussies call cold weather which is 16-19 C, and yes it is cold.

The most awkward thing with summer season and cold the weather are the rules of school uniforms. It is summer so the  boys should be in shorts and the girls preferably in a skirt. So what do you do when the kids says it is too cold for summer clothes? Well you bend a rule or two and you mix in some of the winter uniform which is stockings and long trousers.

As Anna works full time but has the opportunity to work from home we can travel for weekends and so we do: Last weekend was up on the Sunshine coast and it really showed why it is named as it is. Beautiful weather and a lovely little resort called the Endless Summer Resort. The routine of dressing in school uniform was changed for a morning swim in the pool and the routine of walking to school in the rain was changed to walk to the beach after getting putting on a protective layer of sunscreen.

The best part of the weekend? No not the weather it will soon be forgotten! It was when Joel took of for his first 10 m swim, all smiling afterwards saying that he can swim longer than that. So very soon I will be the worst swimmer in the family as the others speed off in a more or less perfect freestyle swim leaving me behind looking like I am struggling to keep afloat – which is exactly what it is.

Not wanting to go to school

The passed week has been full of everyday life and fun. The everyday life is not that fascinating (or is it?) and the fun is, well, plain fun. The fun part is only hard to execute if it is poorly planned, so practicing family-planning to motivate and stimulate has been successful.  So what about everyday life? Is it just boring and energy consuming? is it something that you just have to endure? After the spring-break Joel has had a period of not wanting to go to school. Normally being able to communicate freely, without thinking of which language he reads or speaks, makes him participate in games and having fun. He is a good, caring and inclusive friend. Now he is in a limbo. He understands most things but for the tricky words, but as soon as the break starts and the kids are yelling and communicating really fast he doesn’t really get it all. The teacher who is great took me aside the other day and asked if she could help. She had seen that he didn’t really participate in the games in the break and that he might not be happy with that. Well, there are kids that do not want to participate in rough boys-games so the question is good: Does he want to? The same afternoon she set up playgroups where Joel’s participation was decided beforehand. It took a day for him to understand that he needed to participate according to the set rules of the group to be included and being allowed to play again. Later that evening he told me that he liked playing more than the schoolwork itself and that he had a really good day. This morning it started over again…I don´t want to go to school!

Well a bit of resistance and a bumpy road might be a bit painful but it is part of the development for kids, and obviously for parents as well.

Seeing the other parents this monday morning it was striking how many firm and serious faces you cold count. Two of the girls were crying not wanting to leave the parents, two of the boys were very calm, trying to be bold waving goodbye. The parents, who I know rather well now had different kinds of defenses and coping. During the mandatory morning talk we all realized that this monday morning was not the best of mornings, and ours were far from worst.

So after the everyday-life of school and work, swimming in St Kilda sea baths is on the schedule. It comes with the mandatory afterwards-ice-cream that my wife introduced a few weeks ago. It also comes with a fantastic Latte and it is just on the beach. Looking forward to the afternoon…but looking forward even more to my wife´s arrival on wednesday.

A full scedule

For ten days the kids and I are all alone as their mother flew to Europe to do some work that couldn’t wait. The first day, full of activities has been a joy as it was sunny and included some social planned and unplanned programs. But how do you juggle 3 kids different wishes? And how do you respond to the phrase “mummy said it was ok” when thinking I know my wife well enough to understand she didn’t promise it, or at least not in the way presented to me.

Having been here for a few months the kids made friends and so have we. The everyday life is also knocking on the door, well, everyday. It is homework and swimming lessons but it is also other things than we are used to like participating in class, for me every thursday doing “investigations” in Joels class, basically meaning participating in the morning and help out with the kids in different workstations. Last time I got “theatre”, well I think I won´t get that assignment again! Anyway it is a great way to get to know the kids.

So between cleaning up the house after todays “making a new mess” and preparing tomorrow mornings’ lunch boxes I come back to the question how do I juggle the needs and the wants of the 3 children. I found out that there is plenty of time for everyone when we play or do the homework but the time to get closer to them one at time is rare. They have to be grasped when they come up, even if I am in the middle of something that I find important, but those times can also be nurtured by planning time and small activities that enhance a “good talk”. We had a few of those today 🙂 Let´s see in a few days if the spirit is still high…