expat dad standing alone on the steps in Sweden thinking about Olivia

Daddyland is snowy, piled high in dirty mounds, too deep for a 13-month-old who can barely crawl in his snowsuit to begin with.

But the kid yearns to range free, and I got pictures of him gleefully on the move in the desert sun just a month ago to prove it.  I try to think that he got the bonus month outdoors, not about how much the Swedish winter limits him.

We love the Olivia books by Ian Falconer (though how big a sellout is it that Olivia moves to the suburbs from the big city for the TV series?  C’mon, Olivia the sassy city pig makes the books.  But I imagine that Mr. Falconer is a richer man for making the characters more accessible to suburban America.  Bravo!)  There is a rhythm to the first book where Olivia gets up, “moves the cat,” brushes her teeth, combs her hair, “moves the cat.”  Well, I do not move the cat but I do run the baby on a big staircase at the mall, which is closer to the ugly preplanned 70s town center it was before it got enclosed and less like a real mall in, say, Kista, or, say, Paramus.

It is a grand staircase up three or four landings to big doors that open to a rocky park that no one ever visits.

I take out the recycling, run the baby, do the grocery shopping, run the baby, hit the library, run the baby.

What I do not get, however, is why I am the only one running the baby, following him up and down, up and down.  These are great stairs, people!  Are Swedish babies not restless?  Do these people all have huge apartments?  Do they all have their entire families visiting every day?

I stand at the top and watch stroller after stroller- children hidden by covers or blankets – sailing by.  Moms chat and grandparents hustle.  And only my kid eats the dirt out of the planter.

Finally, a grandmother I know from open preschool showed up with her granddaughter one day.

She is Chinese, speaking neither English nor Swedish.

So it must be an expat or immigrant thing – the Chinese grandmother and I standing half a step out of the flow of the Swedish afternoon.

I still don’t get it.


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