I was in the grocery store this morning when I got the call from the school. "The children are fine, but I have news for you that is not good. Because you are not registered at the Rathaus, there is no place for your children in the school." It was heavy news and felt devastating to my being that was, for whatever reason, feeling fragile this morning. This was all part of a longer conversation, of course, just one more piece of the puzzle that is life for an American living outside the United States.
When you live in Germany, you must register at the Rathaus. This is done for many reasons, including taxes, but for those of us living here under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), namely military and civilian employees of the US Military, we are exempt from this requirement. A week ago, when I was first asked to register, I brought a letter from a German lawyer explaining the regulation allowing exemption for NATO forces and their families to the school. The Kindergarten Director took it and said, "Now we wait and see. No news is good news." I had been operating, since then, that since I'd not heard any news, everything would work itself out. And then the call came. Frantic phone calls to my husband and the German attorney, then a visit to the Kindergarten and a short walk to the Rathaus had me sitting in a quiet, yet sterile, office practicing my German.
It seemed, in that moment, that so many things hung on my ability to to express, in a language that is not my mother tongue, what was rolling around in my head. We'd been expressly told by the military and German attorney NOT to register. I have friends in neighboring towns with children in German schools who DID NOT register. The letter from the lawyer, didn't they see the letter?? But my kids NEEDED to be in school. And this school, the loveliest of Kindergartens, is where I wanted them to be. This was the rich cultural experience I was longing for when we checked the box for Germany as our first choice of duty station. And without registering, they would not have it.
But calm is a superpower, and so I gave a tug on my Super-Mama cape and smiled sweetly as I handed over our passports, signed the necessary paperwork, and listened to the very nice German woman call the Kindergarten to say my children could stay. Because we were registered. Crisis averted. As I picked my kids up from school that day I hugged them extra hard. They didn't know the great monster I'd overcome on their behalf just hours earlier. They had no idea of the tears I'd shed or anguish I'd suffered at the thought of them missing out on an experience I believed to be imperative to their growth. They had no idea, still may not, that their mama will always fight for them in all ways big and small. This is one of my biggest secrets.
To all my Mama friends, I know I'm not alone in this. I'm a Super-Hero, but so are you. So keep up the good fight, my friends, and know I'm right there with you. Your secret identity is safe with me.
**Maybe one day I'll write a post about the day I received the letter saying I'd overstayed my 3-month allowance for a non-German resident without a visa and had to leave the country immediately. But that day is not today. No, friends.... that day is not today.