Are my children growing up too German?

Are my children growing up too German?


norman lebrecht

August 31, 2017

Anthrea Kreston, an American violinist in a Berlin-based string quartet, is contemplating the effects of dislocation on her two small children, the first of whom has just started school. It’s every parent’s dilemma: are my kids growing up different from me? Read on… 



I am sitting alone, the morning sun warming me on the deck as I eat my cold oatmeal and drink the dregs of my coffee, rescued from the table hours after they were first placed, so optimistically, on the kitchen table. Today, we sent our younger daughter to her first day of kindergarten (here called Entrance Class).  Jason was off early – dropping our elder daughter at second grade before heading out for a rehearsal – a two hour drive north of Berlin at a unique and friendly festival (Bebersee) held at a former secret Russian military base (our concerts are in a reclaimed hangar).  

Here I sat with our 5 year old – doing our final checks on her materials for school (she switched out several pencils for a slightly different color, and changed her clothes twice), and packing her lunch. 

These past weeks she has flipped back and forth between jumping up and down with excitement and waking in the middle of the night in tears – Jason and I have brought her many times to school to scout around, meet her teacher, find her new room. On the back of my bike on the way to school today she again ran over her long list of questions – her “what-ifs”, and as we hugged goodbye, her lips trembled and tears breached the lids of her eyes. 

Her walk to the building with her new classmates seemed endless, as I watched her holding hands with another little girl, her huge backpack reaching to her thighs – and when the door finally closed behind them, there was a rush of sadness – the end of a time which had afternoon snuggles, sleepless nights, hours of endless (who even knows what we used to do to fill our days) meandering and making crafts. I was supposed to see a student for a two-hour lesson now, but just cancelled – I need to feel this day, to feel this quiet and aloneness. 

She has spent more than a third of her life here in Germany – I was struck by this during our recent trip to the States. She asked at one point, “Mom – why aren’t there any castles on top of the mountains here?” – her new normal has a fortress on each hill. 

We all have a new normal – and I am so happy to have this quartet semi-Sabbatical which goes until November. Jason will be working every day in his orchestra (Konzerthaus), and although I still have many quartet concerts (5 this past week) and other obligations (substituting as Associate Concertmaster of Deutsche Opera, Beethoven Sonata Cycle, my teaching at the University of the Arts and in Brussels, intensive German school and a light schedule of quartet concerts), I am once again the lead parent – and I am so ready for this. 




  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Misleading title. Still, ‘Family grows up bicultural’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

  • Bruce says:

    No they are not. Everyone should grow up with some awareness of the world outside their home country. They will be fine.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Indeed. These children seem to growing observant. More power to them. I can’t relate the blogpost title to the contents.

  • Thomasina says:

    I’m a French-Japanese who live in Canada, but no problem.

    • John Borstlap says:

      My mother is the daughter of a Jewish German refugee married to an Ex-Gauleiter from Linz (Austria), my father was the son of an African-Mexican who had fled to Scotland before he eloped with an Italian girl whose mother was Turkish and father a Sicilian maffia accountant, my half-sister (with whom I am no longer on speaking terms) is a marxist married to a British-Indian dentist who loves metalhead and suffers from parkinsons, and I ended-up as JB’s PA, and I don’t suffer from identity issues at all.


  • Henry says:

    To find anything negative in what you describe is asking for trouble.

  • Chris Clift says:

    Have a word to one of the Berlin Philharmonic’s oboist (a British player btw) whose three daughters have spent most of their formative years in Berlin, and one of whom is on the cusp of representing Germany at basketball

  • Edgar says:

    Berlin is an excellent place full of challenges and exciting discoveries for these great kids to grow up. I am sure they will learn far more far quickly than their parents can imagine, to the benefit of all. Kudos to the strong mother! And toi toi toi to her and the lucky father in their giving this parched, crazy world of today the much needed medicine: music.

  • Even North Sahara people are having a great time in Berlin, so your children can only be better.

  • Tom says:

    Our kids grew up in Geneva-it made all the difference in their lives-even though we came back to the states for their high school years. I am not sure they think, even today, that returning to the states was a good move. Living with your children in Berlin is a wonderful parenting gift.

  • Anthea Kreston says:

    First day was great! Thanks for all of your comments – the titles are not mine, just for your information – we are as pleased as pickles to have this opportunity for the girls. Have a great week!

  • Sue says:

    I didn’t know there were castles in or around Berlin. You learn something every day.

  • Anon says:

    Wouldn’t any culturally minded parent be more concerned with their kids growing up in the states these days, if you can’t afford exclusivity (from the unwashed brainwashed masses)?

  • Fritz Bruhns says:

    No worries, Anthea! Regardless whether the title really applies, the “new normal” (I love the wording!) is opening wide new horizons to the girls, as to yourselves, by the way. As long as you are not moving and changing the center of your lives several times a year, the differences they feel and perceive will just open their eyes and minds. And with Jason and you as parents, I’m sure you will keep up the American origin and cultural background alive, along with the European environment. – Looking forward to seeing you next time, and very curious when we will be discussing in fluent German :-))

  • Tom Phillips says:

    In Donald Trump’s America, how can this in any way be considered a problem? I would love to live full-time in Germany (and rarely if ever return) were it not for family obligations and the like.

  • Marg says:

    Sadly I missed this one back in August. It is a delightful read and I think your family are all going to be so enriched by living in a country other than the US. In the end, the important thing is being in a loving family and your girls certainly have that. By now your daughter will be so fully into school she’ll be loving it, I am sure!