Monday, February 14, 2011

Plays well with others

Le Petit just got his first report card.

It wasn't a real report card, of course -- after all, he's only three, and while the Education nationale takes its job quite seriously, they don't exaggerate. It was simply a list of social, intellectual and artistic skills that le Petit is expected to learn within the year, with a letter code indicating if each skill is acquired, in the process of acquisition, or (presumably) nowhere near the mark. Le Petit's teacher only used the first two letter codes, and left other skills blank; it appears that many are not slated until the second half of the school year.

I read it with great interest, looking for the proof every mother craves that the greater world appreciates my child as much as I do. Most skills were marked "acquired." That's my boy, I thought to myself. It turns out there are things he can do at school, like draw a circle, that I've never seen him do at home. It also appears that the outgoing, outspoken le Petit that I know and love is timid and reserved at school: his self-expression is "in process." I'd already heard this from the teacher, so it wasn't a complete surprise, but I was a little concerned to read that the skill "playing with others" is also "in process."

My worried mother mind jumped straight to the worst conclusions: does he have friends? Is he alone at recess? Do the other kids shun him? It doesn't help that I was a misfit from nursery school on, the kind of kid that naturally got bullied and excluded, and I don't want my children to experience the pain that I did.

So the other night at dinner, my husband and I gently questioned le Petit to learn more about the école maternelle social scene. It went about as well as any interrogation of a preschooler, and his responses were less than illuminating. We eventually went through the entire list of boys in his class (the school notebook with pictures and first names just came home and facilitated the task) and tried to figure out who he was friends with.

"Is E your friend?"

"No, E is not my copain any more."

"Why not?"

"He fights at recess."

"Is A your friend?"

"No, A is not my copain any more."

"Why not?"

"He hits other kids."

His response was the more or less the same for nearly every boy in his class. "Whoa, I guess it's a jungle out there," I said to my husband, under my breath.

Eventually he identified two boys as friends, although what that meant wasn't clear. Did they play ball together at recess? my husband asked hopefully, and got no intelligible answer. (Future Supreme Court nominees take note, for adopting a preschool response style may be the easiest way to make it through Senate confirmation.)

"Do you like school? Are you happy?" we ultimately asked.

"Oui," le Petit stated simply.

"What's the best thing about it?"

Le Petit thought for a moment.


We noticed that a book entitled "Je ne suis plus ton copain" (I am no longer your friend) is on the reading list for this semester. I wonder if it isn't the latest catch phrase in le Petit's class.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure that I play so well with others, either. I'm timid and nervous with new acquaintances, and I have never managed to surround myself with a tribe of friends. I guess at age 34 it's still a skill "in progress" for me, too.


Mom in France said...

It's so funny, isn't it, how we too seek the sense of approval?

Boo's maitresse, who I rarely see, told me last friday that he was very good in class. She said it in front of him, too me, so you know that means something - a direct compliment!

Now I see the power she has over him so that, at home when he's really unmanageable I just say that I'm going to speak to la maitresse about that and he snaps in line right away. I wish I had that power!

Cloud said...

I think the "you're not my friend anymore/will you be my best friend" nonsense is universal so it must be something to do with development. Even leaving aside the one little girl in Pumpkin's class who has been exhibiting some bullying behaviors, Pumpkin is always talking about different little kids asking each other to be "best friends".

But yes, this playground stuff is hard.

hush said...

So true! "...looking for the proof every mother craves that the greater world appreciates my child as much as I do." Alas, we have not received a shred of that kind of proof here at Chez hush. ;)

"We noticed that a book entitled "Je ne suis plus ton copain" (I am no longer your friend) is on the reading list for this semester." Oh man, why? I totally hate when books and movies teach my kid how to be exclusive of other kids and act like a jerk even moreso than he is already naturally inclined to do!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@MIF - The maitresse is never forthcoming with news of le Petit's day, so I have no real idea how things are going. Presumably well, from the report card, and the fact that we haven't had any comments since the little discipline issue at the beginning of the year. I doubt he's one of the most model students, though. Speaking of which, have you read 'Le petit Nicolas'? I needed something lighthearted to read when I was sick and Mademoiselle was in the hospital, so my husband gave it to me. Hilarious...

@Cloud - I thought it was only a girl thing, you know? I guess boys are different, because instead of just excluding each other they also physically fight, or as le Petit says "font la bataille" -- literally, "battle" one another. Heh.

@hush - I think that's just proof that your son is going to grow up to be a genius, you know? Plus, I feel like some of the preschool stubbornness that drives me so nuts now actually transforms itself into useful character traits later on. You know, the kids who'd grow up to join the resistance. Or so I hope! Of course, I can find nothing redeeming about le Petit's atrocious table manners.

I think I'm going to get my hands on a copy of this book to see what the heck it is actually talking about. It might be that it is trying to prevent bully, but still, it seems a bit strange...