So, the day has come! Our family is about to leave the USA to spend autumn in France.
We’re staying in a small village in Champagne country, east of Paris. There weren’t many choices for furnished houses with three bedrooms in the area. Fortunately, we found a pretty house at the base of a dramatic stone 14th century tower, the “donjon”. Of course, all smart people choose places to stay based on proximity to centuries-old, ruined castles.
Michael will be teaching two courses at a French university (a politically focused university, distinguished as President Macron’s alma mater), on the Paris and Reims campuses . The rest of the time, we’ll all be broadening our horizons, practicing our French, and learning about a different culture. Or more likely, we’ll be struggling with the same utter chaos and frustration of raising young, willful children, in a much smaller house with less family support and fewer distractions (but with wayyyyy better bread).
In any case, adventure awaits! Many questions about the trip remain unanswered. Here are perhaps my top four:
- How we’ll cope with downsizing our home by three quarters: We’re used to a 4,000sq ft house. This house is 1,000 sq ft. It will be a lot cozier. On top of that, we’ll have epically fewer toys. Will it be a nightmare of antsy, trapped kids? Or will it somehow be better? After all, simplifying your life is all the fashion these days…
- How the kids will manage at a French school (no, they do not speak French..) Perhaps it’ll be misery all around and I’ll end up home-schooling them (preferably not – probably not my strong point). Or they’ll muddle through, learn some French and have an awesome time playing football at recess/breaktime. Hopefully…
- How we’ll survive Sunday mass in a French village church: We truly do our best, but we’ve long accepted that one of our family’s roles in the church community is making other parents feel good about their children’s behavior during mass. Some highlights from back at home:
- The “three child sandwich”, performed on Christmas Eve in the front pew;
- Gaston (aged one, last year) getting his head between the side chapel railings before communion. He was crouched there hollering, and for some reason I couldn’t get his head out. It took me a few moments to figure out that the railings were tapered, and I had to slide him back upwards to extract him;
- Gaston (yes, again) starting mass by repeatedly shouting “DOUGHNUTS! I WANT DOUGHNUTS!” Doughnuts are often served after mass. Gaston disagreed with the order of proceedings.
I imagine French children being both gentle and obedient. We will see…
4. Last but not least, what happens if you eat pain au chocolat every day for three months? Do you end up a little sick, more “curvy”, or simply very contented? I would not want to presuppose the answer. I’ll let you know. I do really like pain au chocolat.
One point on which I’m certain: my solo flight to Paris (via London) with four children (6,4,3,2 years) is going to be torturous. (Mike left a couple of days ago). Two children cannot fit on one lap. They’ll get increasingly tired. But once we’re in the air they can’t throw us off the plane, so I guess we’ll get there in the end!
A bientôt, la France!