Monday, April 11, 2016

Straddling three countries

Norr Mälarstrand, Kungsholmen, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Straddling three countries on afeathery*nest  |

If figuring out our own citizenship requirements for each others' countries wasn't enough, we had to go through the same procedure for RF (which I've been mentally preparing for...for a while), albeit a much simpler one, as he automatically took our three nationalities at birth.

The Swedish registration was done for us via the baby's birth center registration, and the Italian one just required taking one form, one notarized document from the tax office and a copy of our passports to the consulate, but the American one? That required an entire folder of documents, plus a hefty fee.

When I looked into it last fall and saw what my birth country required, I began putting everything together well before my due date so all we would have to do in our newborn haze was take a picture of the baby and make a few appointments, and so before he was three months old he was already officially registered as a citizen of the US, Italy and Sweden, and had his American and one EU passport ready to go.

I had thought that that would be the most strenuous thing I'd need to think through this year, but then it came time to begin his vaccinations and I realized our little tri-national baby would need a modified vaccine schedule.

Before Sweden began attracting such high numbers of foreigners, this country was fairly isolated, so the vaccine schedule wasn't (and still isn't) as wide-reaching as the U.S. and Italy's. Given that we plan on spending time in both of those countries, and with family that live in them that will be visiting us here in Sweden, I went through each one's vaccine schedule to figure out what we needed for RF.

During his regular (free) appointments with the baby nurse, he's already getting the Swedish schedule of vaccines, which is the same as both the U.S. and Italy's, with two exceptions: chickenpox/varicella (which the U.S. gives around 12 months, and Italy much later, during pre-teen/teenage years) and meningitis (the U.S. gives the A, C, W, and Y strains during teenage years unless a risk factor calls for an early dose, and Italy does the same with the C strain).

Sweden generally has a low risk for meningitis so the vaccine isn't part of the schedule; and the thinking here is that children shouldn't get the chicken pox vaccine, but rather get infected with the virus and heal from it on their own when they're young.

But we want to get RF vaccinated on the early side because of his exposure to Americans and Italians that have been vaccinated and because we've had a meningitis scare (in Sweden!) in the family—and also because we've decided that when it's time, we'd like to send him to one of Stockholm's international dagis (daycare), where the primary language spoken is English and the children that attend are generally from expat families (and will have been vaccinated against chicken pox and meningitis, for the most part).

The vaccines that are not included in the Swedish schedule seem to be easy to get on one's own—all throughout Stockholm there are standalone vaccine clinics (I'm assuming that given all the international travel that Swedes do there's a pretty big need), one of which we'll be heading to around RF's first birthday to get his supplemental vaccines.

Stadshuset, City Hall, Kungsholmen, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Straddling three countries on afeathery*nest  |

Speaking of dagis, even though RF is only a few months old, we've already started looking into them, because like the crazy housing situation in Stockholm, the dagis queue is just as frustrating.

The way it works here is that children are eligible to begin daycare when they're a year old, but they can be put in the queue to enter their chosen dagis as soon as they hit 6 months—and most people generally still have to wait a few months (or years) to get into the school they want even though they'll be guaranteed a place somewhere in their city within 2 months.

Like in other Scandinavian countries, the concept of a full-time, stay-at-home-parent for all of a child's childhood is very uncommon in Sweden—most parents return to work at least part-time by the time their child is 2 years old so the dagis world is something nearly every parent in Sweden experiences. To encourage parents to stay in the workforce, dagis is very affordable—parents pay a percentage of their income up to a max of about $150 a month for the first child (and progressively less for each subsequent child).

While it translates to "daycare", dagis is really more like pre-school in that they all adhere to a pedagogical style (Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) and children learn social and mobil skills and about the world around them—but the emphasis is not on reading (in fact, most children here don't learn to read until they're 7 or 8), but rather on how to function in the world. The kids learn about other cultures (a big reason why we want RF to go to an international school—there's a larger focus on this), table manners, how to share, and about nature (a LOT of time is spent outdoors, regardless of the weather).

Children can attend dagis from one year of age until they're 5 years old, and then there's the option to do a preparatory pre-school year at age 6 to get ready for compulsory schooling, which begins at age 7 with the equivalent of the U.S.'s first grade.

While we haven't figured out the daycare situation for RF just yet, I'm completely in awe of what I've seen so far of the system that's in place here.

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