The parent-child meeting is bursting at the seams
No space for parents and children – new domicile sought
By Tamara Herrmann
The success of the mother’s centre in Stuttgart-Vaihingen is encouraging, but it is slowly pushing the parent-child meeting to its capacity limits. Larger premises are urgently needed – what are the district and city’s views on this?
Doll cups, teddy bears and storybooks lie on the colourful carpet of the parent-child meeting place. While soft light falls through the large glass window, Stefanie Schönleber ties her red hair into a tight braid, a proud smile appears on her face and she smiles: “My complete heart and my passion lie in this association. Slowly she lets her eyes roam the room and smiles at a mother who has just entered the room with her little girl in her arms. “Take a piece of cake and make yourself comfortable”, she replies friendly and whirls through the small kitchen to bring her guests everything they need for a pleasant stay. Her eyes sparkle with joy and she hums to herself as she pours hot coffee into the porcelain cup: “When I am in the MüZe, I feel at home.
Suddenly her happy mood fades away and she sits down with a serious look at the old wooden table, which is lovingly decorated with little snowmen. “Currently 400 people visit us every week. They also feel at home here, but at the moment I can no longer offer them what they deserve. We only have 90 square meters, but we need 250-400 square meters. This is an unreasonable condition. We are bursting at the seams!”
Stefanie Schönleber is 49 years old, managing director of MüZe and mother of two grown-up daughters. Her involvement began with the birth of her first daughter and the idea of joining a parent-child meeting. When she first entered the MüZe, she was stunned by the state of the building and the structure of the association. “In 2006, the MüZe only had two or three visitors a week and not even an accounting department or membership administration”, Stefanie reports. With a lot of sweat, passion and time she has rebuilt the parent-child meeting place to what it is today: a second home for many families in Vaihingen. “All families are welcome here. Regardless of age, income, migration background or living conditions.” Stefanie is particularly proud of this. She says they are already much more than just a family reunion. A, as she calls it, “marketplace of modernity” has emerged from the MüZe and offers not only an exchange between parents, but also a place where integration and tolerance are lived. Against this background, she is very angry that the MüZe is not being helped by the city regarding spatial problems.
She looks at the corner of the table, follows the lines of the tablecloth, lost in thought, and mumbles: “We had already considered closing the MüZe as a threat for a few months, but we didn’t have the heart to do so with regard to our guests. Stefanie Schönleber doubts that things will change for the better in the near future.
One of her direct contacts regarding the spatial problem is Dr. Carola Flad. She is the deputy department head of the Vaihingen youth welfare planning department and has been campaigning for a spatial expansion of the MüZe since 2017. When she took over the district 3 years ago, she received a written invitation to the MüZe after only a short time. “Here I got to know Mrs. Schönleber for the first time. Both as a person and as managing director,” explains Ms. Flad. She was immediately enthusiastic about the program modules and offers of the parent-child meeting. “I see great potential in the MüZe. In the activity and business reports that Mrs. Schönleber sends me every year, it becomes clear that the number of square meters and the room layout do not meet the demand.
Ms Flad is enthusiastic about the concept of the MüZe, but timidly admits that her hands are tied in this respect. In 2018, Ms Flad had found a suitable property for the parent-child meeting. In this case, however, it was not the Youth Welfare Office but the Property Office that had the decision-making power. Their interest in creating living space correlated with the goal of creating a social infrastructure and improving it in the sense of the MüZe. The only option left to it was to register a need and to look around for territorial changes. When asked whether she believes in an imminent enlargement of the MüZe, she becomes mute and after a short pause she replies depressed: “No, I don’t think so. I see the best way to achieve something in the hands of Mrs Schönleber. She is very well networked and could communicate her needs even more clearly to district councils and increase the pressure.”
Answers like these are discouraging, admits Stefanie Schönleber. She smiles at the mothers who have come in with their children and shrugs her shoulders timidly: “If those responsible cannot help us and no one listens to us, how can anything change? I will not give up, but sometimes I come home in the evening and am disillusioned by this stagnation.” She says that it is often passed on to the district advisory councils: “Here we have found in Mr. Jehle-Mungenast a very understanding and motivated district leader. Nevertheless, the realization of a spatial enlargement has slipped into the distant future. There seems to be no one who can help us further. Everyone is shifting the responsibility to another authority.
Kai Jehle-Mungenast, district leader of Stuttgart-Vaihingen, comes from the field of voluntary child and youth work. His understanding for the demands of the MüZe is therefore quite present. He appreciates the MüZe as the central, invigorating core of the city district and the open nature of the MüZe, with which it offers a place for a large number of families to come together. “We don’t need another casino or another kebab bite! What we need downtown is a MüZe.” He nods concerned and crosses his arms in front of his tie. He tries to comply with the demands of the parent-child meeting as best he can. “I keep my eyes open, regularly discuss possible enlargement options with the responsible authorities and persons in charge. The problem is that Vaihingen can no longer make decisions on its own, but is dependent on decisions in Stuttgart.” With regard to the question of concrete expansion plans and suitable real estate, he frowned and replied that the mayor had rejected them. The reasons for this are incomprehensible to him. The money is not the problem here. “It is the lack of manpower at the building department,” replies Mr. Jehle-Mungenast. His words echo in the high ceilings of his office. “I have almost no power and must therefore act tactically and cunningly on a permanent basis to achieve something.” He understood the demands of the MüZe, which, as he emphasised, were “no luxury problem”. The contradiction between Stuttgart as a child-friendly community and the MüZe’s failure to meet its justified demands made him angry. “Mayors react to press, public pressure and citizen concerns. I think it is a good strategy to temporarily close the MüZe and thus draw attention to themselves once again in a targeted manner”.
As much as Stefanie Schönleber appreciates the commitment of Mrs. Flad and Mr. Jehle-Mungenast, she is not satisfied with such answers. “I have the feeling that I have to make a difference myself. I would like to see the MüZe in five years’ time in larger premises and further developed into a multi-generation house. That’s what I’ll work for.” She straightens up and turns to her colleague, who laughingly plays with a child at the marble run. “We’re gonna do this, right?” Both nod at each other and beam. “Many volunteers came here to make an intergenerational difference and work together. I could also say that we just stay here and make a quiet life for ourselves. But that was never the goal of the MüZe.” Her eyes sparkle again and she beams as she looks at the now filled room behind her. “We want to give something back to families. It’s not in my nature to just give up. I will continue to fight for the MüZe, a temporary closure is out of the question. We don’t want to punish those who make the Coin what it is: the families.”
The children love it – and so do we!
Visiting the Luther House during Advent afternoon in Stuttgart-Österfeld
By Thomas Pilgrim
It is December 14, 2019, and when I got up this morning, I only roughly knew what to expect in the afternoon. In the context of a university project I got the opportunity to report about the still relatively young Advent afternoon of the youth ministry Stuttgart-Vaihingen. There I had an appointment with Michael, the founder of this annual event. After a long train ride and a short walk I reach the protestant parish hall “Lutherhaus” in Stuttgart-Österfeld.
It is 3 pm, cold but not windy. Already at the entrance a smell of children’s punch and glue comes towards me. Two employees diligently regulate the entrance and accept a small, fair contribution towards expenses of three euros for each pre-registered child. “It’s super relaxed, we bring our children here every year”, “The care is top!”, two mothers at the doorstep tell me, who have just “parked” their children here so that they can then calmly buy some Christmas presents. I quickly realize that this is a win-win situation for all involved. The Advent afternoon is primarily aimed at children between the ages of five and ten. The children have the opportunity to let off steam and develop their creativity at various stations. Approximately 15 volunteers and 40 children will be at the Luther House this afternoon – the shop is sold out. In addition to baking cookies, making Christmas cards and singing, the agenda also includes watering candles or building gingerbread houses. “The children have fun and the parents then have some time for themselves before the Christmas stress starts”, Michael tells me, with whom I meanwhile sip a cup of warm punch in the main room of the building. The atmosphere is relaxed and exuberant. In the background, kitschy Christmas songs are playing. You can hear the children laughing and screaming. To be honest, I never thought I would spend a Saturday like this.
On the other hand, I am beginning to enjoy this new experience. The whole setting seems almost a bit surreal to me. Michael, in his mid-40s and even with his three-year-old son on site, is actually a trained computer scientist. He tells me about the beginnings of the Advent afternoon and about the current difficulties that the youth ministry is currently having in planning new events. Meanwhile he balances his son on his knee. He is understandably not particularly interested in my questions to his father.
Michael came to Stuttgart-Vaihingen in 2001 on a professional basis and was initially involved in the leadership of boys’ charity groups. The leadership of these groups is mainly done by adults, because they are better able to organize more complex activities, such as canoeing or hiking tours. Since 2010, however, there is the Advent afternoon. This is very suitable for the younger employees. “That’s a good starter. Here the young members can learn to take on responsibility early on under pleasant conditions”. The young employees are between 16 and 25 years old. Some of them still go to school, the others study or complete an apprenticeship. “Since the event takes place within the company, there is less risk of anything going wrong,” Michael emphasizes. Such events are always well attended. Much more difficult, however, is the establishment of regular meetings for children and young people during the week. “It used to be easier to find participants for regular meetings during the week.” The problem is the all-day schools. The growing number of all-day schools has been observed for some time. According to the current all-day school statistics of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs, in 2002/2003 almost 5,000 schools in Germany had all-day facilities. In 2016/2017, there were already over 18,000 institutions. “The proportion of primary schools with all-day operation has increased six-fold since 2002, to 65.8% – with differences between the federal states between 100% and 26% -” says an article on the website Ganztagsschulen.org.
I still remember very well that in my school days the school day lasted at most until 1 pm. Nowadays it looks different. “The schools sometimes keep the children until late afternoon, 4 or 5 p.m. After that the children are finished and don’t feel like doing anything else”, Michael explains. He hopes for better cooperation with the schools and a constructive discourse. Whether something will change in this respect in the future remains open. Around 6 p.m. the children are picked up by their parents again and I, too, am slowly clearing the field. At this point I would like to thank Simon and Michael for the invitation. “We’ll be back next year,” two boys at the exit answer me first. The Advent afternoon is now firmly anchored in the program of the youth ministry and will certainly take place next year as well.
A life for volunteering
Schautänzerin, Gardetänzerin, Solistin und Trainerin: Wie die ehrenamtliche Vereinsarbeit zum Lebensinhalt wird
From Selina Schweizer
In the middle of a residential area narrow stairs lead to the small cellar. Seen from the outside it is hard to imagine what an important room this cellar is for the club of the KG Schwarze Husaren in Stuttgart-Vaihingen. Various groups in different age groups train here side by side over the whole week for the “fifth season”.
One of them is the 22 year old Melanie Brommer. “The club has become like a big family to me,” says Melanie. No wonder, because she has been a member of the carnival club since she was two years old. A large part of her family is also a member and actively takes on tasks there. The association lives from the voluntary work of its members and especially from the fees for the performances of the dancers.
5, 6, 7 and 8 – these are the numbers that direct Melanie’s entire free time. She is a dancer with all her passion in each of her roles and there are some, because there is hardly a discipline where Melanie is not in action. The biggest and certainly most time-consuming part of her dancing performance is her work as a dancer in the hussar guard. The Hussar Guard is the Ü15-Garde of the club and currently consists of 16 dancers who participate in the disciplines marching dance and show dance.
Marching dance is the traditional form of carnival dance, originally designed as a parody of the military. The dancers wear elaborate uniforms and dance acrobatically in unison. Anyone who has ever seen a guard dance knows why this sport is clearly a competitive sport, because absolute synchronicity, perfection and floating lightness are expected of the dancers. The Hussar Guard currently divides the marching dance into two formations, one for the unevaluated performances during the carnival campaign and the other for the tournaments of the National Association of German Carnival. Both constellations differ for the march dancers in double occupation not only in parts of the choreography, as it is designed somewhat simplified, but especially in their own positions. Whoever wants to be part of both constellations must therefore be able to distinguish two constellations with great similarity throughout and always have the right steps at hand.
Because of her great ambition and her team spirit Melanie has made it her task to dance in both marching constellations. In the current campaign 2019/2020 she will also take on a leading role in the show dance of the Hussar Guard. The show dance differs in every respect from the performance criteria of the marching dance. It is the telling of a story through music and costumes in a danced form. This discipline demands not only the best dance performance from the dancers, but above all charisma and acting talent. The theme of this year’s show dance of the hussar guard is “Herzblatt”. Melanie takes on one of the male leading roles in this dance in the form of an applicant for the heart of a lady. A task that requires additional courage and a good measure of self-irony. Adding it up, there are already three different variations that the young dancer has in her repertoire. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, one of her greatest dancing passions is to be a “dance marionette”. In carnival dance sport, dance marieches are the soloists. Mariechen distinguish themselves in their dancing through a variety of dance performances as well as extreme gymnastic elements and a particularly expressive charisma. “I like the feeling of stepping out of the crowd of the guard and showing what I can do,” Melanie answers the question of what it is about the role of Mariechen that excites her so much. When asked about this, her expression and mood immediately reveal how much ambition and fun she has in filling this role. She seems to enjoy the fact that her existence as Mariechen allows her to step out of the shadow of the guard group and claim the focus of the audience for herself.
With so many different types of dance and dances, I immediately ask myself how exactly it is possible to remember all this and above all not to mix it up. Melanie’s trick is the music. As she has been dancing for many years, it is easy for her to dance to the beat of the music instead of counting all the time in the dance. This way she can usually remember the steps based on the individual passages in the music, making it much easier to separate the dances and constellations. But still she makes it clear: “Without hard training and practice it won’t work! What she means by “hard training” becomes clear from the training plan that Melanie has integrated into her week. Twice a week there is the two-hour guard training, in which the different constellations and dances are worked out in connection with a fitness and strength program. Her independent Mariechen training takes place once or twice a week and is combined with additional training to build up strength in the gym, which she also integrates into her everyday life twice a week.
In addition to all these activities in the dancing part of the club, Melanie also supports the club as a trainer of the men’s ballet. A task that at first seems like a lot of fun, but in reality the chaotic pile is a lot of work. Melanie choreographs the show dances and rehearses them every Sunday with the men’s ballet. It’s quite a challenge as a young woman to assert herself against a group of twelve men and to keep peace and order so that in the end there is something on stage that everyone can be proud of.
I wonder if the honorary office is not sometimes too much for her? She nodded her head violently in response; especially in the past year, the association work has been too much for her in some moments. This is not only because she works full-time in a day-care centre in addition to her work in the club as a teacher and the weekends were mostly booked out with special training for the tournament line-ups, but also because her mother suffered a serious illness at the beginning of the year and thus Melanie’s life was once turned upside down. “In spite of all the stress, I love my tasks and dancing a lot and see it more as a balance to the daily work routine,” she says at the end – and you can see that in her eyes.