Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Lost In Translation

We’re in Paris. So fun! So exciting! Such a blessing! To get to take Caid to ‘Frances’! He’s only been talking about it since he was big enough to recognize a photo of the Eiffel Tower. So why on earth were we sitting on a park bench wanting to strangle said child and send him home on the next train!?!? It could have been the fact that he’d almost knocked a woman in 3 inch heels and a fur coat down because he’d pulled his beanie down almost over his eyes—after we’d asked him not to about 800 times—and then wasn’t paying attention where he was going—after about 800 hundred lectures illustrating why paying attention is such a practical and useful skill. It could also have been the fact that he’d wet the front of his jeans because (you guessed it!) he wasn’t paying attention whilst using the toilet. Was it the whining? The grabbing? Punching his brother in the face? Maybe. Or maybe just a series of rookie parenting mistakes.

Somehow ‘travel-parenting’ is different than your regular ol’ ‘home-parenting.’ Now, I’m not going to lie to you. The Love & Logic basics that have served so well in the past have slipped a little at Chez Anderberg. Call it stress. Call it culture shock. Parenting-school-going-children-for-the-first-time shock. Or you know, lazy. Whichever way you slice it you really feel the lack of it when you’re out of your normal routine. A few too many lectures. A few too many warnings. More yelling/less empathy. A whole lot of entitlement and anger on both sides of the equation. Anyway…I’m sad it’s lagged. Cause this morning I was starting to feel like ‘Gay Paris!’ was anything but.

Some tips for other rookies on the ‘travel-parenting’ front:
  • Feed your children before noon. A healthy, hearty breakfast is every traveler’s best friend. Low blood sugar? Let’s just say it doesn’t make for cheerful children—or parents for that matter.
  • Check the menu outside the restaurant you plan to finally feed them at BEFORE you enter. That way you’ll know that there’s nothing in said restaurant you can afford except a cup of coffee. Sure, it was a damn good cup of café, but 7,60 Euros is maybe a little much for one tiny cup.
  • Note that old churches with cobblestone courtyards are perfect places to wait while one parent runs an errand because they can be transformed into a wonderland where imaginations run wild! You never know who might show up! Narnians, time travelers, and of course quite a lot of cool weaponry (can you tell I have boys?)!
  • While it is thoughtful and important to make certain your children do not run in to any passers-by while playing in their imagined land…simply ignore the woman who crosses herself dramatically and makes the sign that she will pray for you and your miscreant children who are rolling on the cobblestones happy as clams (Yes, this really did happen). Focus instead the man who nearly laughs out loud when your five year old emphatically insists that while there is quite a lot of cool weaponry there are most certainly no guns in Narnia.
  • Agree to be a Dryad or other varied and wild creature or character as often as possible. You can’t believe how fun an old cathedral becomes when you move secretively around it looking for jewels and captured comrades. (Plus it’s cool when you find out your four year old knows enough about wood spirits to be sure he guards your ‘tree.’)
  • Acknowledge that this is their vacation too. Going back at a reasonable hour (see next tip) to the apartment to play UNO might just end up the best part of the day. So it isn’t even a French game. They picked it. They had a blast playing it. They were pumped to finally have a say in what we did next and it showed all over their cheerful faces!
  • Keep reasonable, child-friendly hours. One of my favorite things about Paris is how life practically doesn’t even get rolling around here until 9 PM. Shops still open. Crowds beginning to gather. The gorgeous ‘City of Lights’ and people everywhere! Bring on the 10 o’clock dinner reservations! Bridger and Caid, however…they have a 7:30 bedtime these days. Let’s just say we’re going to try out this tip ourselves tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.
After a rocky start the day turned out well. We regrouped, ate 3 big huge sandwiches between us, apologized, and then went to ‘Jardin du Luxembourg.’ Which is the ultimate kid’s park. Boats to push along with a rented stick in a pool at the base of a fountain. Wide gravel paths to run on so you don’t have to get after your children for playing on the grass (yeah…apparently that’s a no-no in Paris). An old-school carousel ride with a ‘capture the rings’ game. A puppet theatre that we unfortunately didn’t get to see.

The piece de resistance however is most certainly the playground. Great structures. A sandbox. A circular zip-line thingy. The boys had a blast. I spent the better part of two hours deciding that I did not, in fact, want Caid to go anywhere. Watching he and Bridger play was such a blast.

Caid had no idea that the other children did not speak English as their first language. He’d ask them over and over again, “Do you want me to stop it?” “Do you want me to push it?” “Could you stop it for a sec?” “Do you want to climb up here?” “Can we go faster?” Never mind that they didn’t ever really answer. He never even seemed to notice. Scott died laughing when I interpreted what the French kids were saying to one another. An exchange that went basically, “What’s that kid saying?” “I have no idea, but I think he’s speaking English.” They clearly didn’t mind. They were speaking the universal language of play.

The same basic group of children, ages roughly between four and eleven, played together without close supervision or help for nearly an hour. They took turns pushing and stopping and riding the merry-go-round. After a while a couple of the older ones began saying ‘STOP!’ instead of the French ‘arêtes!’ I presume because Caid had become their friend. They wanted him to be included and to be able to understand.

I came to Paris with lofty goals. Albeit unrealistic. Rookie mistakes indeed. I’ve decided to refocus. I don’t want the time to be perfect. I don’t need it to be a rich, cultural experience with little boys who stay clean and don’t run into people and ask nicely and act the perfect gentleman. I’ve decided to take my cue from the kids. They so often get it before we adults, do they not? Nah…new goal. I want Caid and Bridger to be included and to understand.

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