Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A very French rentrée

There were no hearts or butterflies. There were no hugs and kisses. Hell, there weren't even any smiles. At least not on  the school principal's mouth. What there was was a microphone, a school director (ex-wrestling champion, large calves, square shoulders...you get the point) calling the kids' names out one by one - last name first - and a whole lot of little kids with huge backpacks crammed into the tiny blacktop courtyard of the little brick elementary school. And there was also coffee and cake...

The first thing that came into my mind as we stood there, surrounded by friends and other parents whose kids were starting CP (French first grade) was: PSYCH OUT. I turned to my husband and asked why they had to do everything to psycho the kids out, to terrify them?  After we'd watched our little girl go off with her new class  and her huge cartable - no backpacks allowed! - (most of her friends are in the other class), I said something to the effect of how stressful that situation was and it didn't have to be so. I know that the American way is probably too fluffy and cuddly, full of care bears and unicorns, but there is an in-between. But my husband listened and said, yes it is stressful, but it's also a rite of passage. Going to CP is a vital step towards independence for a French child. It's the first time the parents let their kids go off on their own.

It just all reminded me of getting my French driver's licence and how everything was done to psycho you out as if the DMV Gods were whispering  our ears: what doesn't kill you will make you stronger...

I get it. But does it have to be so harsh, so cut and dry, so utterly...French?

So this afternoon, I'll pick up Max from his first day of school (because he started today too and what a shock it'll be to him when he realizes he'll be going there from now on and not back to his dear creche!). Then I'll get Suzanne. We'll go home and she'll do her homework on her desk.

And just like that, my kids are French again.

4 comments:

Penny said...

That's a bit sad...are all french schools that bad? Your directeur sounds very old-school. I thought our school was pretty strict but they posted the class lists the night before. This morning, there was no loudspeaker, just lots of loud and mostly happy kids and parents finding their teachers. As my son was starting CP the parents were allowed to accompany them upstairs into the class for a few minutes. My daughter went into CM1, so there was no need. But we still had time for lots of smiles and hugs and kisses. I hope both your kids have a good day anyway!

Tallulah@Bilingual Babes said...

I agree that inbetween is best! Yes, kids need to grow up and be independent, but there's no need to go from 0-60 in 1 second! I hope your daughter enjoyed her first day, despite the scary start.

TN said...

Our oldest started PS at Maternelle too...no crying from him. But there was a lot of crying from the other 3 yr olds and still is!

It is a madhouse at our school at drop off and pick ups. I don't know what goes on all day. But alas next week is the parent teacher meeting. So we shall see!

Sounds like they had and ok experience even if it wasn't all fluffy unicorns ;-)

TN

Reb said...

glad to know not all schools are equal. It was definitely worse for me than for the kids. They seem just fine although mu daughter is scared the teacher is going to yell at her any day now...and my son has already been punished for hitting someone. Nice...

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