Friday, May 11, 2012

Growing Up (a little bit) French

Last year at this time, after almost four months in Paris, our family was still finding its way. Especially little Adele, who was three-and-a-half when we moved. As I've written about before, Adele's first months at French preschool were tough. She spent many hours crying and clutching her lovey for dear life. Those were hard days.

But one year later, Adele has blossomed and is each day becoming a little bit more la petite francaise.

She has her "French lady walk" down pat (a seductive, hip-swinging swagger) and even does an impressive pout a la Parisienne. She liberally sprinkles French words into her English vocabulary and floats seamlessly between the two worlds. It's been amazing to watch.

Some of it can be worrisome, too. Like the time we went out for Vietnamese (the best pho in Paris is in the 13e), and we caught her "smoking" a bean sprout (albeit backwards..) "just like the teenagers do, Mommy!" Eeek.
She's hyper aware of the world around her and has absorbed certain French-isms more than the rest of us. She's learning to eat skillfully with both knife and fork in hand and has a love of French bread that borders on excessive. She has mastered the native inflection to her voice and even adds that unmistakably Gallic, "...unh?" at the tail end of her sentences. After years of speaking French, I have yet to nail that one.

And so I wonder what it will all mean as I watch her grow up a little bit French? It's a culture I appreciate in so many ways: its food, art, celebration of history and beauty and the smaller pleasures in life. The French prize intellectual debate and parsing ideas, things we hope to instill in our kids, too. And there's so much more.

But when I think about the lessons and priorities I hope to share with Adele, there are aspects about womanhood in Paris that trouble me, too. Like the obsessive focus on appearance and weight. (Not exclusive to France by any means..) And the whole befuddling (and somewhat reductive) game of seduction between French men and women. There's an element of artifice to it all that gets a bit exhausting and sometimes leaves me longing for a dose of California ease. Then there's the way women relate to one another and the (dare I say it?) subtle hostility I sometimes sense among them. Do they share the camaraderie I so value with my own friends? Or is closeness in friendship just defined differently and therefore just feels foreign? Maybe because I'm the etrangere, that's one aspect of life here that I'll never completely get.

Of course I know I'd have as many (although perhaps different) worries no matter where we live. That's just what it is to be a parent. 

As for Adele, only time will tell. For now, she's an irrepressible just-turned-five year old who may just be the funniest person I've ever met. (Except her Aunt Marla. Maybe that's where she gets it?)

So, to celebrate her birthday this year, Adele compiled a list of 14 kids to invite to her celebration. (What a difference a year makes!). Maybe it's because she didn't have a real party last year. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for a party myself. Either way, we decided to throw her a real fete to remember complete with a French birthday party animatrice, puppet show, magic, make-up and balloon animals.

Here are some shots of my sweet Adele. Thanks for indulging me. I'm one proud maman.
 Like my hat(s)? Big bro's birthday before we move to Paris.
  I like cafes...
Bike riding on avenue de Breteuil.
I can tie my scarf just like a French lady!
Celebrating "Allo-een" with Jacques-o-Lantern.
My first visit to Laduree...yummy. 
Baguette...c'est bon!
"I'm a big girl now, I'm five!"


At May 11, 2012 at 9:01 PM , Blogger Lee I said...

So fascinating to watch the acculturation process in children. Bon anniversaire, Adele.

♪♫♫♪Happy Birthday to you ♪♫♫♪ Happy Birthday to you♫♫♪ Happy Birthday♫♫♪ Happy Birthday ♪♫♫♪Happy Birthday to you! ♪♫♫♪ I hope you have a great day!

At May 11, 2012 at 10:12 PM , Blogger Pam said...

Hi Paige! I'm not sure if I've commented before, but I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now. My husband and I are getting ready to move to Paris with our 4 children this summer! Our youngest will be 3 next month and I've been considering l'ecole maternelle in the fall. It just seems like long hours! Is he going to work or nursery school!! I'm wondering if I could do half days with him to start...he's SO attached to me and I think the move is going to be stressful enough for him.
Anyway..I enjoy reading your blog! Love the photos of your sweet Adele!

At May 11, 2012 at 10:59 PM , Blogger D said...

Adele's very cute! :)

I share your feelings as an étrangère... And also as a mom, i have some "worries" as well. But as you say, we'll have worries no matter where we live. so i guess i'll just enjoy living every second of it the french way!

thanks for the great post

At May 12, 2012 at 3:29 AM , Blogger Sarah said...

Great post, Paige! Wishing Adele a very happy birthday!

At May 13, 2012 at 12:42 AM , Blogger Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Your posts read like a novel as we follow your family in the joys and challenges of la vie française... Your characterizations of Adele with her acquired French mannerisms are wonderful. Adele, je te souhaite un joyeaux anniversaire!


At May 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM , Blogger Paige said...

Merci, Lee! Yes watching the kids adapt has been amazing. They've adjusted so much faster than I imagined they would...a good lesson for me.

At May 14, 2012 at 10:58 AM , Blogger Paige said...

Hi Pam - Congrats on your upcoming move. You must be so busy as your prepare...I remember the process and it's nuts! As for maternelle, some will allow you to do half days, especially at the beginning. It often depends on the school director. Another possibility is bringing your little one home for lunch (11:30 - 1:30) then back for afternoon nap and play. It IS a long day. We found that it was worth toughing out the initial transition period in order to get the kids acclimated and learning french faster. They then made friends more easily and everything fell into place. It also depends a lot of your child, of course. Since the 3YO is your youngest, perhaps he will want to be just like his big sibs and "go to school?" Adele initially went two full days and two half days - that ended up being a good balance for her as she adjusted.

Good luck to you and thanks for reading the blog!

At May 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM , Blogger Paige said...

Thank you. An adventure everyday, no? Good luck to you and thanks for reading the blog!

At May 14, 2012 at 11:03 AM , Blogger Paige said...

Merci, Genie! That's my goal exactly - to bring readers along on our grand family adventure. :) Thanks so much for reading it - I loved the photos on your blog, too.


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