Y’all. Here is another episode in the series “Katie doesn’t know what she is doing when it comes to daily life”. Also known as “breaking all rules and somehow still not becoming cool”.
I would have considered myself prior to this point to be an excellent bag-packer. In fact, it’s a running joke in my family that my sister and I are “the bag ladies”. In high school I would leave for swim practice before school (5:30am) with at least 3-4 bags in tow. Food bag, book bag, swim bag, etc. So I’ve had some practice. More recently I had become an excellent diaper-bag packer. This is a forced skill when you are traveling all over the country and the world preparing to be a missionary while toting an infant. I’ve packed for blazing hot days sightseeing in Rome, cold days doing anthropology assignments in Belgium, humid days playing with my family in Memphis, and 14 hour flights traveling to Tokyo.
But Japanese day care is a whole new ball game. Before I go any further, I have heard that kindergarten here is even more involved in this regard and I know I haven’t seen anything yet. But for now, I’ll tell you about what I know. Which is that it is crazy.
In my head, here are the things I would pack for my child. Diapers, food, extra clothes, paci/blanket/lovie for sleeping. That’s about it. And I would still have considered that a lot. Babies require a lot of stuff for their size. For most of her infancy, emerie could fit inside the bag that I carried all her paraphernalia in. Then I get the list for what I am supposed to bring to day care.
– 5 diapers
– pack of wipes
– change of clothes
– lunch food
– snack food
– her own cup
– a washcloth for lunch time (for hand wiping)
– “outer clothes” for playing outside (didn’t know what that meant – apparently it’s this homemade suit-like thing that goes over your clothes so you don’t get dirty). Here’s a photo –
– a hat for playing outside- shoes and socks
– a towel for her head during nap
– a large plastic bag in which to put the small plastic bags of dirty diapers to go back to your home
– a book in which you must write in Japanese:
— a timeline of her activities including sleeping, eating, playing
— what she ate for breakfast and dinner
— her mood
— her temperature and what time you took it
— if she took a bath
— how many diapers you changed
— date and day of the week
— the weather (of all the things this is actually one of the most confusing to me)
— notes about what you did (typically 3-4 sentences…in Japanese…so emerie does a lot of generic “playing” and “eating”. There is a direct correlation between the growing excitement in her life and my growing Japanese vocabulary).
– all in a diaper bag
There are at least 3 things on this list I have forgotten (on purpose or on accident) every day so far. And I have battled feeling inadequate and frustrated and guilty. Then shifting fully over into self-righteous and dispassionate “who cares if you don’t have everything; does it really matter; caring about this stuff is lame.” Then to laughing at myself and the situation as I write this post.
Emerie, though, knows no different and is loving it. In fact, she cried and reached away from me and towards her sweet 65-year-old care taker, Yamamoto-sensei, when I tried to take her home today. She learns so much every day, and I am learning too. I am learning from her as she faces new situations with excitement and joy, seemingly trying to bring a smile to the faces of everyone around her. I am learning about rules and precision and the importance of following standards for people here in Japan. And I am practicing my “mom talk” vocabulary. Surprisingly, the words for poop, diapers, and peek-a-boo haven’t come up in language school yet…