Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bring me a suppository

Down by the riverside.

Bothering daddy at work.

Going berry picking after dinner.

Tick, tick, tick. Does anyone else hear that? Why is it that the clock, on its constant sweep of time, gets so much louder at the end of summer?

Something is in the air. Perhaps the end of summer approaching. These Frenchies are trying to milk every drop of what’s left of the long hot days, to suck the light right out of the sky.

While I was putting the girls to bed, dutifully, before the witching hour of nine, the other night. I could hear what sounded like the whole town still up partying. Damn those French!

One child was barking, howling, at his mum for dinner. Another family was just sitting down in their front garden for their nightly meal; kids laughing, glasses clinking, forks dropping on kitchen floors (sounds remarkably the same as a fork dropping on a kitchen floor in America), grownups chatting, cats mewling.

We were going to bed.

As I read Pocahontas, in French, to Isla, she’s not a stickler for pronounciation, I could hear the monotonous thump, thump of distant techno music. It was coming from the local fete, across town, that was just getting started.

I knew that fireworks were supposed to start sometime close to ten and chose to keep it secret from Esther and Isla because they just haven’t achieved the level of stamina that these French children have.

After they fell asleep, I snuck downstairs, planning to grab my French book and get into bed and conjugate some verbs. The music seemed louder. My curiosity grew. Who, in this small town, would go to a fete at almost ten o’clock at night? Certainly no one with kids. Ha.

I told Ian I was taking a walk and headed up to the train station to do some spying. When I got there I saw a mini carnival in full swing. Loud music, candy floss, bumper cars, a merry-go round, and a large handful of parents and small children milling around. There, I thought. Silly French people. Why can’t they start a party early enough for people to actually go to it?

I stood around watching the bumper cars for a few more minutes, then stopped to talk to a Brit couple, who have grown kids, who were waiting for the fire works.

Just fifteen minutes later, it must have been 10:30, as I was leaving, people started steadily filtering in. Not just people, but families--moms, dads, babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, grade schoolers....

And not a single child was crying, or whining, or misbehaving. They just quietly clung to their mommies’ hands, or sat in their strollers, and waited to get there.

And they just kept coming. As I walked towards home through the dark streets, it was like the family-friendly verson of Dawn of the Dead. Family after family walked, slowly, methodically, in the opposite direction as I did. I had the strangest sensation that I was an alien, a different species from these people.

Am I the only person in this entire country whose kids fall apart when they're tired? Is there something I'm missing here? Is this why no one wants to talk about all the nuclear reactors?

It makes me feel like I’m an overprotective mom. I need to take a chill pill. A suppository, perhaps, and let go of this need to control everything, including my kids shedules?

Seeing these families, happily together, just an hour before midnight while mine were tucked safe in their beds, makes me feel like a fun-averse prude.

I considered, for a passing moment, waking Esther and Isla up and surprising them with a midnight firework, cotton- candy treat.

Ian was watching a movie when I got back. I sat down in the chair next to him and watched the screen.

When the blast and crack of not-so-distant fireworks, crashed through the night air, I ran upstairs and closed the girls' bedroom window so they wouldn't hear.

When the fireworks went quiet, I stretched my ears in hopes of hearing the sound of some crying children. It was totally quiet.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Cave dwellers

One of these days I'm going to learn how to post pictures that don't come up first. Don't laugh. I really don't know how.

I'm sitting in hour new rented home away from home, which is about a three minutes walk, down to the other end of the street and on the other side, the river side, of the road, from our old home away from home. All the shutters are shut and it is delightfully, coolly cave-like in here. I suppose that is the point. The French love to build houses with all the windows on one side, leaving vast expanses of stone with no windows on the other side. So, when you enter the house, it feels like entering a cave.

With the intense heat these past few days have brought I am content to be a cave dweller.

The girls are upstairs, each with a playdate. There is a certain amount of bickering going on, as always, but generally they are content as well.

Esther is talking in her faux British accent, for the benefit of her Brit/French friend. They had a sleepover last night and I can hear Esther's fatigue coming through her voice.

Isla is giggling with her little friend. Since her little friend is one year younger than her, and learning two languages at once, she is very quiet and their fights are much more physical, and easier to break up, than those of Esther and her friend.

I'm finding parenting in France to be more challenging than parenting in America. Nothing to do with the country, everything to do with the fact that the mere foreign-ness, the daily challenge of adapting to that which is different, a new language, a new culture, taps what last reserves my children have before they are completely done.

Where once I could predict how much they could handle before they needed to be sent to their corners, think boxing, for a powwow with the coach, here I'm often blindsided by the meltdowns. Food for thought.

We spent the day up at the farmhouse yesterday and Esther and Isla played with some French kids, mostly grandchildren of the neighbors. It's so fun to see them interact, watch them communicate. Esther learned how to say, "climb a tree" in French. Isla just kept kissing this one little girl on the cheek. She fits right in here.

She's come to think many of the women in our town are named "Madame," since we say "Bonjour Madame," whenever we see them.

More TMI can be read over here.