- If it is raining, you will get wet. Very wet. Despite the rain, you have to go outside to take your son to kindergarten and/or to do the daily shop. You cannot carry an umbrella as well as bags of shopping and the scooter, so you go without. Your son, snug in his raincoat, will insist on jumping in or scooting through every puddle you pass, meaning you will be exposed to the rain for tedious periods of time and get even wetter than necessary.
- Your arms will ache a lot. Firstly, there’s the daily shopping which needs to be carried from supermarket to home and you do insist on stuffing as much produce as possible into two carrier bags. Secondly, there’s your son’s scooter which can no longer be left at kindergarten because it is a fire hazard (don’t get me started…) so it has to be managed along with your two shopping bags. Thirdly, there is all of your son’s discarded clothing – his jacket, hat, sunglasses. You may not believe it is possible, but you will invest in a granny trolley. Unfortunately, you will only get to use it on Saturdays when you don’t have (a) a three year old or (b) a scooter to manage as well.
- You will miss Sainsburys (and Tesco and Asda) with a passion you never would have believed was possible. On trips back to England, you will arrange for your parents to do babysitting duty while you go and pay homage to this miraculous store. Miraculous because you can buy food, toiletries, cleaning products, medicines, clothes, books, cooking utensils, towels, stamps and many more things ALL UNDER ONE ROOF. And then, you can put them in the car and drive them to your front door! You will take your time strolling down the aisles, running your hand lovingly along the shelves. You will buy raisins in little packets, Goodies bars, a whole host of junk-free snacks for your three year old, Calpol, Oilatum and fill your suitcase with these luxuries. You will look longingly at the chilled Anabel Karmel meals, a nutritious standby to have in the freezer for when you are just too tired to cook. Oh Sainsburys, how I do love you.
- Other children (natives) just won’t behave in quite the same way as your child. Other children do not leap off their scooter, punch both hands in the air and shout “To infinity and beyond!” before jumping back on and scooting off at break-neck pace. Also, expect to have your parenting mistakes pointed out to you by well-meaning (I think!) old ladies. Don’t expect to understand the advice, though, as it will only be delivered in German.
- You will always be on a diet. You love your son with all of your heart, but the days are long and you will take comfort in gigantic bars of Milka, giant buns (okay whole loaves) of raisin brioche and wine, wine and more wine. You don’t have the same waist or metabolism that you had four years ago so these three things will take their toll and you will need to go on a diet. Repeat ad infinitum. You will do crazy and uncharacteristic things like pay £67 for the 21 Day Fix which will make you miserable for a whole 21 days of your life (or maybe only 10 as that is all I have endured so far).
- Everything will seem so much further away. Instead of your journeys being delayed by traffic, signal failures or tube strikes, you will have to contend with the Scooter Sit, walking along walls, detours through the park as well as hundreds upon hundreds of tantrums. When you hire a car, you will be amazed when it takes twenty minutes to drive somewhere that took you an hour and a half when you braved it by public transport.
- Your three year old will be forced to understand the green cross code, and yet, it will only be understood using a three year old’s warped logic. He knows he must not cross the road unless the green man is on. But what if he gets to the crossing before you and the green man is on? He will think he can cross the road on his own. Cars won’t be able to predict his actions and neither will you. You will live in perpetual fear.
- The kindergarten will make you uneasy. It is not like a British nursery. There are stairs. There are glass glasses rather than plastic. There are marbles. There are three members of staff supervising seventeen kids. Most of these kids are under two. Sometimes you will find a stray child apart from the others who appears have been forgotten. You will not know how much lunch your child has eaten and he cannot be relied upon to tell you truthfully. If your child is in nappies, it might not be changed, or he might come home in a nappy two sizes too small. You will barge into the manager’s office, irate about the lack of potty-training skills only to be met with a blank look of someone who does not speak a word of English. Your child may come home with bruises, scratches or bite marks. There will be no incident form. There will probably be no insight into how the bruise, scratch, bite mark came to be on your child’s skin. And yet, you have a social child who needs constant engagement so you take the risk.
- You will be responsible for your son’s Early Years education. Children in Austria do not start school until they are six. Some of your friends in the UK have children who can write their name at three. You will try to undertake some sort of schooling where nothing seems to be learnt making you doubt your teaching skills and experience. Here is Noah’s most recent report:
- Drama – A* – He is a talented actor who enjoys playing a range of parts
- Reading – A – Enjoys books and stories and has a good comprehension of what the story is about
- Writing – C – Lacks the inclination or concentration to practise
- Maths – C – Steadfast refusal to pay attention to lessons about shapes
- Science – F – Failure to understand the difference between night and day resulting in tedious nocturnal habits
- Music – A – An enthusiastic player of all instruments at his disposal
- P.E. – A* – Outstanding at running, scooting, jumping off things, crawling under things
- Art – B – He has more enthusiasm than natural skill
- You will fall in love with the beautifully tended parks, especially the one on your doorstep. You will get unexpected enjoyment out of every season. Through your child, you will delight in the snow (because your car will never get stuck in it). In autumn, your heart will be warmed by the damp piles of leaves your child has collected for you as a present. You will love the fact you have four months of solid shorts and ice-cream weather, despite the sun cream wars.
My Noah, Vienna is not really our home, but our days together here are precious.