Thursday, January 29, 2015

On knowing

It's hard for me to convey just how much love is contained within this cardboard cone... and I'm not referring to the chocolates and cute stationery.

Last night, the parents of sixteen children (myself included) perched on tiny chairs in the prep classroom. We cobbled together massive pieces of cardboard, then burnt ourselves with hot glue guns whilst trying to wrangle tissue paper and cellophane into something vaguely celebratory.

There was much hilarity at our own expense -- and considerable anxiety about the tissue paper requirement (and why did nobody think to bring wine?)-- but something beautiful was clearly happening.

The Schultüte is a 19th Century tradition. I must confess, I was completely ignorant of it until I enrolled my daughter in a bilingual school. And while I have my own anxieties about how this is going to pan out, the Schultüte experience seemed like an incredibly fitting one.

To start with, it connected us to a centuries-old culture of learning, one where parents celebrated the start of their children's educational journey in a fun and tangible way. One chap brought in the Schultüte that he and his siblings had used as children: his parents had it sent all the way from Germany. He and his wife spent the evening cutting out their son's name and the year from felt and adding it to this beautiful heirloom.

I especially love how the activity centred on the cardboard cone which was made by hand and decorated with our child's personality and preferences in mind. I understand that many parents in Europe buy Schultüte for their children and I'm not judging but I would not have missed the chance to make something for anything. There was something about the time and effort required that felt important; honouring.

Naturally, the process lent itself towards competitiveness. And being human, I could not help but feel a little Schultüte-envy by the end of the evening. One woman told me how much her son loved insects... then proceeded to construct a magnificent lush jungle scene; an explosion of green tissue paper completed with 3D creepy crawly she'd made herself.

All the way home, I wondered: would my daughter like it? Would she still be pleased with it when she saw the others? Would mine be good enough for her? [Subtext: am I good enough for her?]

But, of course, when she clapped eyes on it this morning, she was delighted. She noticed everything I had chosen for her with so much care: the image of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom; the many many owls; a German-themed Hello Kitty or two; sparkling butterflies and many many shining hearts.

She won't have the chance to open the Schultüte until after her first session at school tomorrow morning, as custom dictates. But therein she'll discover an equally delightful selection of treats chosen with love: Dia de los Muertos-themed erasers; scented pens; her favourite American candies; hologram unicorn stickers; tissues and bandaids; multi-coloured hair elastics wrapped in the shape of a lollypop; her initials in sparkly perspex keyrings; heart-shaped chocolates.

Once the excitement has settled, I want to tell her that I chose Athena and the owls not only because she loves them but to remind her that she is wise and brave and strong. And that she will be OK even though this is all so new and a little bit scary.

I also want to tell her that, in attending the Schultüte craft night, I had a small taste of what she'll be experiencing. The greeting was in German, the explanation of what to do was in German and subsequent discussions were also in German... and I had no idea what any of it meant because I do not understand German. And it was frustrating and somewhat annoying and also more than a little embarrassing but I had to ask for help... and keep asking until I finally understood what was required of me and to make sure I didn't miss anything. I want her to know that it felt strange for me to do this but I wasn't the only one and, actually, everyone was very nice about it and quite friendly in the end.

I won't need to tell her that her mama loves her more than all the sparkling butterflies and shining hearts in the universe. She already knows that. Because I tell her every day. And we often talk about our totems. But also because this is the energy we channel: mama the lioness, my daughter the owl, her little baby brother the hedgehog.

I know it sounds funny, put like that. But once you feel it, you know.

You know.

This post is in response to the fourth prompt of the Reverb14 reflective writing challenge. All prompts can be found here; you are warmly invited to share your response and link to it in the comments below, if you feel called to do so. 

The next opportunity to connect in this way is April Moon and we'd love to have you join us!


  1. Great post! Wonderful custom too.

  2. Oh this is beautiful! It makes me wish that there was a small fuzz for me to make one for, but since there is not, we do have an entire cadre of "nieces" and "nephews" that I think this would be amazingly special to do for. Or to help their parents do.

  3. Oh Kat - what a fabulous tradition and I LOVE LOVE LOVE how meaningful the experience has been for you, and how it opens the way for your daughter. What a wonderful mama you are, and what delicious opportunities you are unfolding.

  4. I read this post and loved learning about the first school day tradition you shared here. I am sure this transition will be an exciting one as it is celebrated with treats and tools for school. My, how that young girl is GROWING!! =)

  5. This sounds and looks so awesome!