So, the day finally came. La Belle had her first day at school today. Over the last few days she’s had a love, hate affair with French. Some days she wants to speak it all the time, others she won’t want to know. This has obviously been a reflection of how she is feeling about starting her school at the time.
Last night I got her school clothes together, letting her choose between a set of French clothes I’d bought here and a dress with cats on that I’d bought in England. She chose the cat dress.
Le Marie used our leopard glove puppet to tell her all about his (the leopard’s, not Le Marie’s) first day of school. Leopard had been very worried too, because he spoke only English. But when he’d got there he’d had lost of fun and games with the other leopards and made lots of friends.
As this was going on I was in the kitchen adding labels to all of La Belle’s equipment scolaire. When we’d first enrolled her I’d been given a list of school equip,ent to get for her and it all had to have her name on. I added the name of each item in French too; as La Belle can read in English I thought this would help her learn the French words too. If nothing else it was a way to give her a little sense of control and therefore comfort before she started the next day.
That night she’d had trouble getting to sleep. I went in her room to give her one last cuddle and we spoke about how Ellie Elephant had been nervous on her first day at Peppa Pig’s school, but Peppa had looked after her. “You’ll meet your Peppa, don’t worry” I told her. I also pointed out that she had been watching lots of children’s programmes in French and understood what was happening. She seemed a little more settled.
At breakfast leopard made another appearance to remind La Belle all about how well his first day had gone. I spoke to her about her first day at pre-school in England when she was two. I told her how she’d only been able to count to twenty and had very few words beyond that (she’s a maths wiz) but she’d still made lots of friends.
In the morning as she was washed and dressed and grew increasingly excited I sat her down and read to her the école maternelle book again, which has everything that happens at school so she knows what to expect. I also showed her the little laminated cards of various activities which I’d put in the side pocket of her backpack.
As we set off on the journey La Belle asked for English songs to be played. Oh dear, I thought, that doesn’t sound good.
Then we drove into the cathedral town where her school is. I couldn’t help but think of all the mum’s I knew in England going through the same car journey today. How there day would be similar, how it might be different.
I’d never been at dropping off time before so I hadn’t seen this before; all of a sudden we could see everywhere little children with their backpacks on heading towards the school. La Belle became more and more excited as she pointed them all out. As we got out of the car all her cares had apparently gone and she was eager to get inside.
Now it was my turn to worry. I had to locate her teacher. I’d been sent an email about a week ago telling us where to wait and what the teachers name was. I couldn’t pronounce it. I saw three different teachers and waited anxiously before finally spotting La Belle’s. I manager to be understood and to understood her; was she staying for lunch, the time to pick her up and where, does she stay after school, there’s no telephone number for her (ahhhhh, telephones).
La Belle had gone shy by my side whilst this was going on, but she didn’t looked so shocked now when the teacher greeted her with a kiss (by this time so many adults have greeted her with a kiss she’s getting used to it).
Then more waiting, but La Belle now wanted to happily play. I kept pointing out a little boy is seen registering for the same class. She refused to go and say hello, but started to play near where he was. I stood having a conversation with his father. La Petite Fille was running round like a mad thing with Le Marie holding her by the reigns so he couldn’t join us. I wanted so much for him to be there, make friends. We’re fishes out of water – just come and nod! But of course a 22 month old will not be still for niceties and it’s only my anxiety that’s causing a problem.
La Petite attracted attention wherever she went. The French showing the adoration for children one woman questioned her and ran a commentary on her responses; was she going to the class? Oh no, no! She was going to stay with her mother. Quite right too!
Then announcements came over a loud speaker. I can’t hear what’s being said through those things in English, let alone French. I didn’t even try, but watched the father of La Belle’s classmate to see where I should be going. Then we were off to the classroom. I became worried again. What if we got separated? Le Marie speaks very little French, mine is great. What if we missed instructions? Got seperately from the crowed? I can’t pronounce the teachers name!
As I was trying to follow Le Marie and La Belle and the rest of the group, edging my way through the crowd, when all of a sudden parents who had been waiting behind me managed to get through the gap past me – the French don’t do queuing. “On y vas, Madame” they kept saying. The gap between Le Marie and I became bigger and I became more needlessly worried. I took my opportunity and pushed my way through. “On y vas, Madame” said a man who’d I’d just gone in front of. Had I offended him? Behaved rudely? He seemed jolly and smiling. I’ve worried about it ever since, but I’ve a feeling there was no harm done.
Then into La Belle’s class. All was as it had been in her école maternelle book. She was so excited. She started to play next to the boy whose father I’d spoke to outside. La mattrice went through the same instructions again as outside, we kissed La Belle and then we found ourselves walking outisde.
I hope she’s having fun.