I worked for a time in a Copenhagen forest kindergarten. Space for kindergartens in the city centre was scarce. So kids were bussed out to the outlying northern forest to spend their day running around in the wild and free. This combined both cost saving and new pedagogue theories about raising children in the fresh non polluted city air.
I was, I admit, brainwashed by the Irish system of stay at home moms and a society with no concept of kindergartens. If you had kids, the moms reared them. End of story. It was a shock, when I was drop kicked into a female dominated profession with lots of kids from divorced families. I suppose throwing me into this environment, was part of some great Danish social experiment. I was an Irish alpha-male in an alpha Danish female environment. The pedagogues where right on the cutting edge of the new thinking, of complete equality of the sexes. Which involved no competition and no striving for success. Girls and boys where equal, with a capital E, on all activities. Atheism combined with pacifism and social liberalism with a sprinkling of Maoism was the way forward.
I fortunately, was not there to teach these kids anything. Just work as the general handyman. So all of this, was way over my paygrade. So I climbed on the bus and headed for the forest north of Copenhagen.
When it stopped, it was my job to get all the gear from the bus, to our house in the forest. I pulled the wheeled wagon, like I suppose, Boxer in Animal Farm, loaded with stuff, for our time in the forest. The bus would come back at the end of the day and take us all back to Copenhagen. Everybody, reborn, testosterone detoxed, happy new age bunnies.
Some of the boys and girls would jump on board the wagon to get a free ride. I enjoyed this. But I could see it was not going down well with the keepers of the equality flame. “In life, everybody should carry their own load” was their daily mantra. The kindergarten house sat right on the edge of the forest. So it was never a case of these kids roughing it. Yes, they were out all day. In the cold and rain and snow. But they had a very big warm base, to come back to.
I had a small work shop. And here I spent my hours fixing some of the broken kindergarten toys. I purposely made a division between myself and “The Man.” Kids being smart, noticed this right away. I wasn’t there to fix them, or resolve their very complicated family issues. I was just the handyman. Some of the pedagogues had as much personnel issues as the kids. One of my conversations, with one of them went like this, “You know, you remind me of a mechanic who is fixing all these cars. Yet has a string of broken cars outside his own house.” Needless to say, I was not asked for my opinion again.
That’s when Jens turned up outside my workshop. Jens was a very quiet inward looking boy. Who normally just sat in a corner and never said anything or joined in any activities. He had a pattern, where he could suddenly get very violent and smash one of the other kids. Followed by a manic laugh. I was oblivious to all this at the time, and let him just sit and watch me sanding the repaired wooden toys. The job I had was a created job, by the Copenhagen City Council. I was no carpenter. Just an unemployed Joe, who’s turn had come. I could have ended anywhere within the Copenhagen system. But fate had thrown me into a pit, run by a Danish female pedagogue army.
Whose heroes, could only have been the warrior Amazons of old.
The pedagogue’s came to check up on Jens and left him alone, when they saw he was occupied and not causing any problems.
Then one day I was pulled in by the boss and informed, they would have to stop Jens coming with the group, as he was very disruptive and just not fitting in. He would have to go somewhere else to tackle his violent behaviour. I found this very strange, considering all their pedagogue beliefs and training. I was brought up with the idea that there was no such thing as a bad boy, just lousy parents.
So I defended him and said he was a good kid, maybe all he needed was something to do. I knew his mom and dad where going through the usual divorce. Where pots and pans and the odd punch was being thrown. And little Jens was right in the firing line. It was agreed they would see what would happen, with his new found interest in wood carving. And hopefully this would pave the way for a new beginning for Jens.
This was the golden time of the “Pacifist in Denmark.” A serious political suggestion that the “Danish Army” be replaced by an answering machine saying in Russian, “We Surrender” was not considered that out of place. I would not consider myself a violent person, but I was very amused with a few of the barroom brawls I was involved in. The Danish guys getting heated and screaming in my face.
After punching the guy out, I was told by my Danish girlfriend, it was just posturing. I had seen “2001 A Space Odyssey” in a marihuana smoke filled cinema in Dublin, so I did remember the monkeys screaming at each other bit and realised, shit, I was that monkey with the big stick. I had tried the pacifist bit in Dublin, and got my arse kicked on a bus trip to the Top Hat in Dun Laoghoire, for my troubles. So I reverted back to the, punch first, ask questions later.
But boys, invariably, will always be boys. This is a shocking revelation for most moms and would also be for my Danish Amazon pedagogues.
One day I drew the shape of an AK47 on a piece of wood and said to Jens. “Let’s make a gun.” So we sawed it out and Jens spent an age, sand papering it, getting it just right. When he was finished, the delight was obvious on his face. It lit up like the sun. He had made something entirely by himself. And I was very happy for him. A job well done. Then he ran off to the rest of the group, who were doing beading or colouring animals, or something mind numbingly boring and proceeded to machine gun the lot.
Needless to say this caused a mighty upheaval in the forest kindergarten, as the boys immediately charged down to the workshop and demanded to be tooled up as well. The forest arms race had begun. The pedagogues were not impressed and had a series of crisis meetings as to what to do. But they were powerless to resist the winds of change. The weapons factory was in full swing, churning out carved sanded wooden AK47s.
The girls by this time had enough of beading and demanded to be armed as well. The forest rang to the sound of boys being boys, and girls screaming and shooting and falling down. It’s how I imagined it should be. It’s the way I played as a kid. Watched a zillion atrocious Cowboy B movies. Coming out of the dark dank Killester cinema, we ran around shooting everybody with our fingers. If it was a Zorro movie we all had invisible swords. Much like kids play now at being a Jedi warrior.
I introduced them to the John Wayne, Hollywood action, getting shot stunt fall. The pedagogues still shelled and completely shocked, let it slid, as Jens was back, playing with the others and everything was, it seemed, still on track for Social Liberalism. But this time it included carved wooden AK47 guns.
More meeting where held with parents, about this sudden explosion in interest in guns, from both the boys and girls. To their credit, they embraced it as an experiment and I was never asked to stop. The guns where breaking with all the energetic activity and I was soon running out of wood.
But, as in all trends, it ran its course. The blunt German, Sepp Pointek’s football vision, with its sharp elbows, mixed with a new hardened edge of reality was working its magic. And the deeply buried idea of winning, was once again re-surfacing, from its long hibernation. Danish dynamite football was on the move . The boys and girls started to play competition football. The winds of change where blowing away the last bits of Social Maoist Liberalism. I know I shouldn’t be, after all that has happened the past few years. But I’m still pleased at the giant blow, I struck, for men’s lib. That “Year of the Gun, In the Kinder Forest.”
Cover image courtesy of funky_abstract via Flickr