Expat Corner #3

by Susan Bergson

See you in September…

Friends and neighbors, these warm/sunny days have taken on a frenzied pace especially for those of us with school-aged children. We are collectively holding our breath for test results and advies; we are hoarding shoes boxes and popsicle sticks to complete last school projects. We are squinting at ~1000 messages in the class WhatsApp group for drop off instructions and steeling ourselves for the hats, sunscreen, water bottles, sunglasses and towels that will all mysteriously disappear in the course of a day trip to Duinrell. We are (jealously?) smiling at the hanging backpack outside the neighbor’s window – hieperdepiep hoera, our darling has graduated!

In a matter of weeks, many of us will start to travel. You’ll leave your ‘home’ to ‘go home’ and be reminded that you’re not sure what or where is ‘home’, visiting aging relatives you don’t see often enough, bunking with family you mostly love and camping in remote places only to discover that a Statenkwartier neighbor is just three tents away. You’ll cram in adventure and new experiences and pray to a higher power that no one breaks an arm. September seems so far away…

And yet, like the heavy metal tunes of a Muse concert wafting from the Malieveld, September will be here before you know it. As August wanes, you’ll suddenly remember that it’s time to plan darling’s birthday party…you’ll glance quickly at your watch to see if the Paagman is still open…but of course it isn’t because you are still ‘glamping’ in Armenia. Alternatively, your child born in July will remind you of their “forgotten” summer birthday and desperate need to celebrate with school friends. Relax, we’ve got you, our neighborhood is a wonderful place to hold a birthday party. Here’s our advies

  1. Keep it simple…parks, playgrounds and green spaces in the Statenkwartier are all perfect places to throw down a blanket and celebrate.
  2. It’s not all about them…until ~13 your child’s age is inversely proportional to the potential for your own birthday party enjoyment. If you’re bringing all the 2-year-olds from the opvang together to celebrate, forget the fancy goodie bags and organize so the parents can have a nice time. [My personal advice…and you can judge me if you wish…consider serving a cocktail]
  3. Our neighborhood is lovely with its nooks and crannies. I highly recommend a ‘hare and hounds’ treasure hunt where the ‘hare’ goes out first, hides something and texts the ‘hounds’ a photo clue. The hounds run off to find the treasure and the hare bounces off to prepare for the next (aside…this is also a great way to do an Easter egg hunt).
  4. Our local merchants have everything you need. You can order a gorgeous cake from one of multiple bakeries. There are also many local entrepreneurs who can help you organize the [fill in the blank] art/jewelry making/sing-a-long/laser tag/puppet show/reptile petting party darling has always dreamed of.
  5. Know your audience…culturally, dropping the kid and leaving is perfectly fine. Just accept it; you’ll do the same at the next party. Importantly, also remember that buying a small not-so-expensive birthday gift is equally acceptable. [As long as that birthday gift isn’t slime…I beg you!]
  6. Just give up (in?) on the teenage birthday party…set up a PowerPoint projector and screen a movie on the back terrace or send them to the movie theatre and be done w/ it. No, they don’t want you there. 
  7. Everyone is happy at the beach…there’s a wealth of activity and resources just a short bike ride away. In September, the water may not actually turn you into an ice cube, go to it! 
  8. Have a rain plan – it’s easy to forget when the sun is out, but this is the Netherlands. Thankfully, there are four museums and the Omniversum cinema nearby.

Parents, we are wishing you a beautiful summer. We’ll be ready to welcome you home with open arms – hopefully at one of the many kids activities in and around the Statenkwartier. And happy birthday to all!

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