Things are getting better, honestly, or so I keep repeating to myself. I still want to escape. I haven't felt this anxious to run away from everything in years. This unable to cope. It stinks. I know some of it is probably pregnancy-related anxiety, and I talked about it to my doctor at the hospital when I had my monthly check-up last week. He confirmed my suspicions and gave me a week's rest from work. It didn't solve anything directly, but it helps to be understood and it helps to have some extra time to breathe.
I had my third driving session on Saturday. It was painful. I was reminded of how hospital personnel ask you to rate your pain on a 10-point scale. Last time my anxiety was a 10, and this time it fluctuated from 7 to 8. Improvement, yes, and the good news is that the improvement came because I was learning to both integrate the important information contained in the barrage of negative comments from the instructor while at the same time maintain some of my own self-confidence.
I'm beginning to understand some things:
1) Constant negativity is the driving instructor's modus operandi. When he isn't screaming at me about my braking or my shifting gears, he's asking me why I've turned on my headlights already ("Can you see? Or do you want to be seen? Turn on the parking lights, then!"). Some of it is valid. Some of it is gratuitous. I will do my best to take the useful stuff and leave the rest. Incidentally, I'm certain I'm braking and shifting gears better than ever, even if he won't admit it.
2) This is fundamentally a good growing experience for my perfectionist, take-everything-to-heart personality. Let's face it: a thicker skin can only help me. And it is probably a good thing for me as a driver, too: if I can learn to deal with this kind of stress while driving in Paris, I'll be that much more able in everyday situations.
3) There's no way I could have dealt with this at all seven years ago. Or even, I suspect, before the birth of my first child: motherhood has taught me a few things.
4) I can do this. It won't be easy, but it will get easier.
My husband doesn't quite get why this is stressing me so much, although he's supportive. If any of my readers have gone through this process here in France and can validate any of my experience, please do so.
Meanwhile, there's le Petit's school. Which is wonderful, and stressful, and still a big huge unknown in many ways. It is wonderful because le Petit loves it. He wants to go every day, even Saturdays and Sundays. We obviously can't compete with painting and recess and all the other fun new things he's discovered. He's one of the only kids who doesn't cry at drop-off time and who doesn't rely on a lovey or pacifier. If I didn't know better, I'd give myself a big pat on the back, but I'm learning in this parenting gig to only give credit where credit is due.
It is stressful because he's still having some trouble listening to the teacher, although from her comments and le Petit's own comments I think we're making progress. Today the teacher told me that everything went well, très bien passé, those magic words, although she did mention that today he briefly hid somewhere in the classroom. I made it clear that I want to help the transition and that I fully back her authority, and I think that was all she was looking for. Le Petit, for his part, listed a bunch of rules for me that I didn't even know about: when the teacher asks, he says, he knows it's time to sit down or put away toys. Go le Petit!
I went to the parent meeting on Saturday morning and fully understood something I'd been starting to suspect: the school is great. They truly care. But they are overwhelmed with kids. There are 30 kids in each class and only two adults. Most kids stay for lunch, nap time, and after-hours extended care. Both the director and the teacher strongly encouraged any parents who could to do only mornings, the only "academic" portion of the day, and pick up their child before lunch. Given the iffyness of potty training and discipline and le Petit's general reluctance to nap, we decided that it would be better if we hired an afternoon babysitter for the three weeks I'll be at work before I go on maternity leave. This is adding a new unknown -- will we find someone good? Will it work out? -- but it feels like the right decision.
So, free government nursery school is a very good thing. But, dear Sarkozy-and-the-other-powers-that-be, why not fund another adult per class? It would make the transition to school that much easier for parents, teachers, and children, and it would make another small dent in unemployment. A good idea, no?
The seven year itch of my life in France is catching up with me more than ever. If I could do it this week, I think I'd turn tail and move back to Seattle. Find my wooden house with a front porch. But I'm far too far from that shore to think of swimming in that direction. Instead I'm clinging to my life ring and keep paddling back, in the only direction I can go.