Monday, September 13, 2010

Life ring

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.


paola said...

Oh so le Petit made it after all? Great!! Zoe is starting when we get back from Aus. We have found out what class she is in recently and that has made everthing much more imminent. I am so happy for her and a tinsy bit for myslef too.

Our classes have 28 kids and the teachers (2)seem to cope quite well. I don't think there are ever really 28 kids at a time in the classroom though. The kids of the same age get taken out for different activities ( music, religion English etc) and so there might be a max of 20 or so most if the day.

Still, I can't complain. If we were in Aus we'd be paying through the nose for kinder.

Mom In France said...

Hang in there!

Sorry about the adult/kid ratio. Boo is lucky: 22 kids & 3 adults. AND his teacher is the principal of the school. So far so good on that front. I'm slow on the uptake though, spoiled by an awesome nounou. 2 weeks in and I only just figured out the poor kid isn't getting any gouter - I'm supposed to pack it! No wonder he's so cranky at night.

Re driving school...I can't directly commiserate but had a friend go through the same trauma. she resorted to putting post-its on the dashboard about what to do (and not do) and when to help her "re-learn" how to drive. Her instructer made her cry more than once. You've gone this far - you'll definitely make it. Think of it this way: the instructor won't let you fail.

Ksam said...

It's been three years since I took passed the French written & driving exam, and I STILL remember the stress from it. But it's such a relief to have it done and over with, and in some ways, it's like the final rite of passage for an expat. So don't worry, you can do it - and it'll all be over soon enough!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@MIF and @KSAM - you guys both made me feel so much better. Really!

@paola - I know, there's the whole "this is high quality AND free" thing that I keep repeating to myself.

Sylvie said...

I am just thrilled that Le Petit loves school, just as I suspected he would! It's a perfect fit, really, school and Le Petit - a bright, curious little boy who is sociable and engaging and the place that will open the world to him. Once you've got another child, I think you'll be relieved at his fascination with school and happy that school will be "entertaining" him instead of you!