Marchissy is a five minute drive from here, up a winding road that, on a clear day like today, provides a panoramic view of the Alps. Especially beautiful are the sharp peaks of Mont Blanc on the other side of Lake Geneva. We park by the post office. My daughter is excited about her first day, so she holds my hand and has a skip in her step as the whole family walks to the next intersection, up to a big old building (Okay, 1870 isn't THAT old, but I'm American so anything older than 100 years could be in a museum).
Dozens of families are waiting out front for the teachers to open the school. Many parents are snapping pictures of their children, others are trying to keep younger siblings out of the rose bushes. My girl is still excited.
The teachers come outside. One of them is in her early twenties, one in her mid thirties. I'm hoping Rena gets the younger teacher, since she's more likely to speak some English. They tell us to go around the side and enter there. I don't actually understand anything they're saying, but thankfully Flemish children are subjected to 9 years of French in school, so my husband translates for me. We enter through a room with benches on both sides. Above them are cubby holes and wooden hooks. My daughter's is close the door. I notice the other children taking off their shoes and putting on slippers or house shoes. My husband and I look at each other and cringe. Either the letters we received from the school didn't mention that we should bring slippers, or somehow he missed it in the French.
I go to ask the teacher if she can just wear socks for today. Her teacher is the thirty-something, and she speaks about as much English as I do French (none, in other words). The other teacher translates, and my daughter's teacher agrees she can be barefoot for today. My daughter is in tears.
We calm her down, go into the classroom. She is overwhelmed by all the people, and frustrated that she can't understand. The teacher says everyone should find their colored pencils and sit down at a table. My daughter doesn't feel like coloring. As the teacher gives an orientation that I understand nothing of, my child looks up at me, teary eyed.
"Please don't leave me here," she says. "I don't want to stay here by myself."
My stomach tightens into a knot, and I have to keep telling myself DON'T CRY! My husband listens to the orientation; I hold my child's hand. Then it is time to go. We pray for her. Her sisters give her hugs and kisses. Then I embrace her one last time before walking out of the classroom with my stomach still in a knot and my heart properly broken.
I never want to see my child cry. I don't want her to have to struggle.
I'm sitting here now, supposed to be working but unable to think about anything besides her. My mother's heart wants to go and rescue her, and I have to keep reminding myself WHY we decided to put her in school to begin with.
Before we knew we were moving to Switzerland, we had planned to homeschool. But if I homeschooled my daughter here, she wouldn't learn French. If she doesn't learn French, she'll be isolated, extremely limited in her friends. She won't be able to take dance or music classes. She'll never belong here.
I know this is the right thing to do, but it hurts. I've seen this child learn Dutch, and she's such a bright kid. I know she'll pick up French within a few months, but...I also know how it feels to be a foreigner, and I hate that she's feeling that without me being there with her.
I've got to hold on to the 'Why'.
We are letters from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.