We did the stupid Christmas Light Tour over the weekend. (At the time, we didn't think it was stupid but right now I think everything is stupid so it was STUPID.)
Lucien and I went early to pick up the tickets while Alex waited for the babysitter for Ms. Cokes. As we entered the shop where you pick up tickets, we walked smack into typical French "organization" -- complete pandemonium, no line, just a big group of people pushing to get to the counter (my Dad refers to it as "the French wedge" and I find that term shockingly accurate).
There were some anglophones darting about, looking panic-stricken and shouting back and forth, "What's the SYSTEM? I don't understand the SYSTEM." "Heh, good luck suckers," I thought to myself, "no way in hell you're making the tour if you stand around whining about a system in the middle of a French wedge." Then I plunged headfirst into the crowd. I pushed and wedged like a seasoned professional all the way up to the front of the line with my little boy's arms wrapped tightly around my waist. He knows the drill. When entering a French wedge, cling to mama and hang on, kind of like a cute little baby koala, but with more fear.
I received our tickets and complimentary blankets (nice touch -- Christmas Light Tours are chilly) and was directed to the complimentary hot beverage table in the middle of the chaos. I managed to grab a hot chocolate for the Loosh but then beat a hasty retreat. Hot drinks and pushing crowds don't go together well as evidenced by the large number of yelling, scalded tour participants.
When it came time to get on the bus, another French wedge formed outside the bus doors. The anglophones were very cute, all lined up nicely on one side of the bus but we Frenchies (I consider myself one of them now, in matters of line-waiting and enviable style only) just crushed up together on the other side of the door. The anglophones looked bewildered as we steamrolled them out of the way. Americans and Canadians flew left and right and yelled, "Aghhh! SYSTEM! There's no SYSTEM..."
Of course there's a system, people -- it's called "smashing the hell out of other people." Alex arrived just in time and congratulated me on my badass procurement of the best seats on top of the bus. The top of the bus was full of French people. I'm pretty sure the bottom of the bus was full of crushed, wounded tourists applying cold compresses and band-aids.
The tour was pretty. Alex and I loved it. Lucien, not so much. I underestimated Lucien's interest in Christmas Lights. Grossly underestimated, as in he doesn't really have any interest at all. When you paired that disinterest with having to watch a bunch of kids eating junk food, playing games and riding rides just outside the bus, he spent most of the tour frantically begging to be let off the bus so he could go have fun. We said no and pinned him to his seat. A struggle ensued.
I made a video about The Paris Christmas Light Tour 2010. It's six minutes of video heaven. I just received word the video has been blocked in Germany but I don't really understand why. Sorry, Germans. Guess the Christmas Lights were too shocking for you.
Moving on -- I'm about to knock some skulls over at the preschool. Seriously, if you think I'm impressive in a French wedge, you are going to be blown away when I bust down the front door of a French preschool and squarely land my karate kicks.
Dr. Michel once told me it was my job to defend Lucien in the French school system, that they don't handle "different" very well. Well, mama's about to put in some overtime. Lucien has been talking recently about how he was moved to a different lunch time. I didn't think much of it, OK, they switched his class's lunch time, no biggie. But then he told me this morning, very quietly, that he didn't like school because he was being punished and had been moved to a different lunch time -- just him, without his classmates, in with the bigger kids, most of whom he doesn't know. He often sits by himself. (... and Mama says, "WHAT THE F*CK?")
This alarmed us so Alex asked about it at drop-off and was told that yes, Lucien was moved to a different lunch time to "send him a message" that he needed to stay in his seat and be quiet in the lunchroom. He had been completely removed from his class, singled out, shamed and embarrassed, because he wouldn't stay in his seat at lunchtime -- and without his parents being notified first so we could help explain what was going to happen.
I'll send you a message, Frenchies. It involves KNOCKING some SKULLS.
Now I don't want to get all soap-boxy on you here, but aw, what the hell we're all here and have nothing better to do. In my humble American opinion, shaming and embarrassing a child is not effective punishment. In fact, with someone like Lucien, it's only going to make things worse -- now he's angry and hurt and much more likely to act out because he's feisty like that. Plus now, thanks to you, Frenchies, he's internalizing every single day that he's the "bad kid." He knows what you want yet he can't help his energy level, he can't help his extreme extroversion that makes him lose his frickin' mind when he's around his friends. You're punishing him for being himself, for being the kid he's always been. It's reactive and antiquated and completely f*cking ineffective.
We know Lucien can be tough -- the energy, the volume, the constant desire to wrestle -- we get it! It's hard to handle sometimes! But is the only solution to squash him like a bug, fit him into the mold, browbeat him into submission, embarrass him into silence? Oh my God, was your answer just "Yes?" You uncreative bitches!
The teacher says he's a smart kid, he does his work, he learns with no problem, but he's too disruptive, jumps around a lot, likes to yell, etc. etc. She mentioned we may want to talk to his doctor about it. I assured her we had, and that the doctor doesn't have any worries about Lucien, in fact he appreciates his spirited ways and is a big fan. Instead of being satisfied and moving on to constructive solutions for dealing with his behavior in class, she frowned and said, "Well then you probably didn't explain it correctly." Fantastic. Very helpful. KNOCK some SKULLS.
The Loosh is a rowdy kid stuck in a land where children are expected to be seen and not heard. But I don't want a silent kid. I want a child who's confident in his own skin, who's not afraid to speak up, who believes he's a good person even if he's not perfect. I want plans that are proactive, not punishments that are reactive. I want constructive ideas to help him manage his energy in a classroom setting, not destructive spirit-sapping techniques from the stone age. I'm no longer convinced any of that can happen in France, not for us anyway, not with the Loosh being who he is.
Oh and hey, you know what else, France? I went out with a couple of the ladies Friday night (Virginia Mom and Australia Mom, how I love thee) and we scandalously ordered a bottle of rosé wine in winter. We got a funny look. Well f*ck you, too, stupid wine man! We're going to drink rosé in winter! We're going to let our freak flags fly! It's who we are and you will not shame us into being any different. So eff you and eff you and eff you and eff you....
Happy Holidays, everybody!
You are a very, very good kid, mon chou. I will fight these Frenchies to the death so you know it.
Mr. Sarkozy, I stand outside the Élysée Palace
wishing to discuss the matter of my education...
P.S. We leave for Quebec this weekend and then we're going to Colorado for a little bit and I hope we don't die because that's a lot of planes but IF WE DO, can someone please come over here and kick some ass in my place? Start with the lunch ladies. They'll be the ones in the hairnets. Promise me.