05 February 2014

De Overblijfmoeder

While dropping the Little Man off at school last Friday, the teacher was making a sign to stick on the door (where all the announcements go) that a substitute overblijfouder (literally "remain parent" in English) is needed during lunchtime this Thursday (tomorrow). At the Little Man's school, all the children stay at school for lunch, bringing with them their boterhammen (sandwiches) and drankjes (drinks) each day. The teachers get a break from the kids at lunchtime and an overblijfouder comes in and watches the kids and helps them open their lunch boxes and drinks - and generally makes sure no one starts climbing the walls. I knew this when the teacher asked me to be the overblijdmoeder ("remain mother") and I agreed... but now I'm thinking about the other part of this adventure, which means talking to all of these kids. In Dutch.

Photo courtesy of: rakratchada torsap

Normally, talking to kids is no cause for anxiety for me (I was a teacher after all), but in the past I've also been talking to kids in English. I know my grammar is often... um... awful... and I know I have a strong American accent (read as: don't pronounce things correctly). The first time a school friend of Little Man's came over, I tried a "Kan je je schoenen afdoen, alstjeblief?" ("Can you take your shoes off, please?") when the boys came in. The kid looked at me and said, "Wat?" And after a few more of my attempts the poor thing looked at me again and said, "Ik kan je niet verstaan." (I can't understand you.) I resorted to "Schoenen. Af." (Shoes. Off.) - which worked, but was not exactly what I was going for.

For the most part, talking to young kids isn't too bad. They are also making grammatical and pronunciation mistakes so speaking with them doesn't carry the same potential for embarrassment from making mistakes as it might when talking to an adult. I also figure that the teacher wouldn't have asked me if she didn't think my level of Dutch was good enough for fending for myself for a half hour. And I've recently learned a lot of the imperative in my Dutch lessons, so I can say "Get off that" and "Eat your bread" more effectively, so that helps.

I think I'm safe from reenacting the famous scene from Gulliver's Travels, but if you don't see anything here tomorrow or somewhere on social media, please call the school. Just in case.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy


  1. Oh gosh, kids are fun that way. I'm sure you'll have a good time and all will go well! If anything, I enjoy talking with kids much more. They only giggle if there are errors, which is a lot better than judgment or the dreaded switch-permanently-to-English of adults. Good luck and have fun!

  2. Good luck! I also resort to basics usually and just last week learned I was using horrible grammar to get my bus tickets but hey it was working!

  3. Thanks! The "permanent-switch" gets me, but kids are more forgiving. And at least it's only a half hour!

  4. hahaha! Thanks! I do resort to the point and grunt tactic when necessary but it's been effective so far!

  5. Haha, love the Gulliver idea! It's an alien concept to me this whole overblijfmoeder thing. When I was at school in England it was the teachers who sorted us all out at lunchtime - during eating and on the playground afterwards. My kids come home for lunch so I don't have first hand knowledge of the overblijfmoeders but I would say you have to be pretty brave.... :-)

  6. In the States we either had the teacher eat in the class with us (at smaller schools - God love these people), or we'd be shunted off to the lunch room and watched over by the teachers' assistants. Now Little Man "does overblijven" (as we say) twice a week, but I haven't yet been volunteered for such a thing =)


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