I’ve always been determined that my children will have every cultural advantage I had as a child, which means that they will know how to swim competitively, to read music, to play at least one instrument, and have an additional sport of their choice. It seemed a matter of course that they would also go to the Symphony (ballet, opera and theatre) and have cultivated a great love of reading from an early age.
But I’m starting to realize that I’m setting an unfair expectation. First of all, they do benefit from many of these things. My 8-year old daughter takes classical ballet twice a week, and has solfège (music theory) along with her piano lessons. My 7-year old son has soccer once a week, introduction to solfège and instrument discovery, which will help him choose what he will want to play in the future. My youngest son, who is only four, is taking multi-sports – his own particular activity that he takes very seriously as a participating member of the under-ten set in the family.
But Symphony and theatre? It’s too far, too expensive, too inconvenient. Swimming lessons? We can’t fit them into our already packed schedule. And reading? I’m not inspired to go to the library each week like I did as a child, because it means that they will be reading even more French, and they already get plenty of that in school. What about that love of literature they were supposed to have cultivated in English – in my native tongue? For heaven’s sake, they don’t even know they’re half-American, and keep asking when we’re going to go visit their grandparents in England again! (more…)
When we moved from a quaint little cobblestone town, South of Paris, to the booming financial district of La Defense where we settled across the street from a mall, I knew I had found happiness.
Don’t pity me for my lack of culture, as I know you are bound to, and just let me repeat that there was a mall. In the other town, I had nowhere to go and nobody talked to me, even on the playground. In my new area, I could take on even the coldest, rainiest days with fortitude simply by pushing the double stroller over to the mall entrance and losing myself in a Starbucks latté while trying not to lose my kids as they ran freely down the carpeted corridors. We’d all go home to our apartment for a nap afterwards, cheerful and spent.
But what was even more wonderful was the group of international friends my kids and I made. We lived in the tallest residential building in all of Europe, and our playground was in the midst of a series of high-rise buildings. The public school was located at the base of our building so we only needed to take the elevator and descend a set of steps before arriving. There, we greeted each other in the friendliest way possible, and everyone would make plans to meet up again later in the day at the playground. (more…)
Having a successful vacation with children requires setting your expectations beforehand.
Friends of ours (who now have grown children) recounted the first time they went on vacation with their newborn. The wife ended up sitting on the beach all day with the baby while the husband went surfing and sailing. It was a disaster.
She said, “ If it’s going to be like this, I may as well stay at home where at least I’ll be more comfortable.” And no – he’s not a selfish guy. They just hadn’t counted on how much having a baby would change things, and they hadn’t communicated what their needs would be in order to relax.
I think the latter is more essential than packing a toothbrush. (more…)
Author’s father with his French grandchildren
I am not an ex-patriot, technically speaking. When my ten year resident visa expires in three years I’ll be taking the test to become a citizen of France—well, actually, a dual citizen of France and The United States.
For one thing, it’ll be easier that way not to have to endure the bureaucratic process of renewing my resident visa, even as seldom as once every ten years. For another thing I will be able to vote in both countries, and as I am living here, the politicians elected and the policies implemented will affect my quality of life; in that I want to have a say.
And then there’s the fact that I’ve sort of become French.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve perfectly mastered “the pout” or have the art of dining in a moderate and lively way under my (tiny little designer) belt. I may also stick out like a sore thumb in the schoolyard with my friendly waves and “bonjours” accompanied by a big smile, even after all these years. (more…)
I think that by now everyone knows about the famous (infamous?) article on how French parents are superior.
Of course, as a mother living in France, I was sent this article by about ten different people. At first, I sort of skimmed it and dismissed it since I tend to parent in much the same way as the French supposedly do – authoritative no’s and a complete expectation that I will be obeyed.
My youngest is three and he consistently proves me wrong on this point.
But in preparing to write this post, I really gave the article the attention it deserved. I found that there was some value to what she was saying in that teaching children the (more…)