There’s a general strike in France today.
I'm working from home today -- taking a brief break for a blog entry -- as part of my contingency plan for the first week of maternelle. Since last Friday, le Petit has been doing half days while we assess the potty situation. He loves school. Adores it. Examines Daddy's watch in the morning to determine when it is time to leave. He runs the last block to school to arrive as fast as he can at the front door.
I was optimistic the first few days, or "cautiously exuberant," if you will. But today at eleven-thirty, along with my child, I picked up my first neatly tied plastic bag of wet clothes. This wouldn't bother me so much if le Petit hadn't had three accidents at home with us yesterday afternoon.
When I briefly asked the teacher how things went, she said nothing about the accident, but gravely told me instead that "[Le Petit] has trouble listening" and "He leaves the classroom and runs out into the hallway." I was instructed to explain to him to that this was unacceptable. I, in my typical way, took this all personally and dramatically (with the help of the mood-destabilizing pregnancy hormones that are drowning me right now) as I turned it around in my head on our way home. I would be labeled a "bad mom!" My child would be labeled a "bad seed!" This was the beginning of long-term academic failure!
As I prepared lunch, I snapped at le Petit over things that I would ordinarily handle calmly. It all ended in a teary time-out. When I’m under stress, my most respectful and effective parenting techniques fly out the window.
I don’t quite understand what I’m supposed to do, and I’m wringing my hands over this one more thing that is beyond my control. I can explain to le Petit that he needs to listen to the teacher. We talked about it on the way home as an Important Safety Issue. I went through his maternelle picture book with him before lunch and emphasized the pages that showed kids politely obeying the adults or routinely going to the potty. But there is only so much I can do to impose discipline when I’m not present, and part of me feels that it is also the teacher’s job to find a way to make sure the lesson is understood.
At the same time, I wonder to myself how the French school system, which seems rather directive and disciplinarian compared to its American counterpart, produces such an individualistic people who have almost codified flaunting the rules. Half of Paris is out in the street today, either protesting the retirement age reform or hiking their way to and from work by foot. The other half of Paris is hiding out at home, taking a day of vacation or telecommuting. It is a mess, and no one expects otherwise.
Not for the first time I’m wondering if my son will grow up to be a syndicaliste, and be out in the street pulling up paving stones and calling out to subvert all forms of oppressive authority.
He’s starting in maternelle.
To paraphrase the famous 1968 student protest battle cry and adapt it to his new generation:
“Under the Crayolas, the beach!”