I picked up le Petit at four o'clock today. By letting him skip After Care for the first time this week, I felt like I was breaking him out of jail. He goes willingly to the cafeteria at lunch each day, but he was clearly glad this morning that for once he wouldn't share the fate of the majority of his classmates and be led off to the centre de loisirs at the end of the afternoon with the dim promise of snack time. Cantine, mais pas goûter, as he explained happily to his teacher at drop off. I wonder if he understands that it's all over on Monday. If he wants to skip out early from now on, he'll have to rely on his grandparents. I'm having fun imagining Grandpa calling over the playground fence as he arrives for an early pick up, "Hey, don't worry, kid, I've got a plan to spring you outta this joint."
By contrast, Mademoiselle was in no hurry to leave when I arrived to pick her up. Sharing a nanny with another family means a whole other home to explore, with all manner of interesting new things to put in her mouth. She was applying herself to the task diligently, but didn't I realize this was twice her normal workload?
The three of us walked home with le Petit doing his best to maintain our slow, dignified pace by dragging his feet and practically hanging off the handles of Mademoiselle's stroller. When I'm not in a hurry -- and luckily, tonight I wasn't -- I find it fascinating to walk with le Petit and watch him discover the city street at preschooler level: there are metal plates with cryptic letters, grates that cover mysterious holes, and curbs, ledges and lines that all cry out to be walked along. Today he stopped and planted himself in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the window of a real estate agency.
I followed his gaze inside to a knee-high model of an apartment building that was presumably under construction. There were tiny little windows, tiny little balconies, and tiny little plants hanging off the tiny little balconies. I let him look as I tried to push the stroller off to the side a little, since we were blocking the sidewalk and irritated people in a hurry were huffing and pushing around us. I acknowledged le Petit's enthusiasm. He wanted to go inside and take a closer look.
"No, hon, because if we go in there, they're going to want to sell us a big, expensive apartment that we can't afford," I explained lamely. There were about a million valid reasons I was not going to talk to a real estate agent tonight, but none would make much sense to le Petit.
Le Petit thought about my excuse as I tugged on his arm and he reluctantly followed me to leave.
"You're going to have to see a lot of clients."
My husband, you see, works as a technical consultant in the sales department of a software firm, something utterly uninteresting and incomprehensible to a four-year-old. So we've explained that Daddy "goes to see a client" when he leaves in the morning. Especially when he leaves in the morning wearing a nice suit that no one may touch with hands stained with butter and jam. For a while this spring le Petit liked to ride his toy car around the living room and pretend to visit clients, and I even made him an imaginary laptop computer out of piece of folded cardboard and a spare ribbon. I program computers and beat up databases for a living, but that's even more abstract.
"I'll have to see a lot of clients... and why's that?" I inquired.
"Clients every day. Every, every day... except... except the days when I am at school."
The notion of time is still fuzzy, so he puzzled over this a bit before eventually adding:
"Yes. So that you can make lots of money."
"Lots of money, and then?" (It was almost impossible for me not to finish his thought.)
"And then you'll make lots of money, and we can buy a nice big apartment in Versailles, and we can come back and see the inside of the little house!"
And to think, I was worried my children might not appreciate it when I was once more off to work.