Last Thursday La Jolie Fille and I went to l’école maternelle to meet La Belle. Waiting at the school gates with the other parents I anxiously looked for her. After a little while she appeared, holding the hand of another little girl in a crocodile. She was all smiles as I waved madly. Madame France greeted me and said au revoir to La Belle, asking for une bise goodbye – then off we were going home.
Of course there was an avalanche of questions.
Did she enjoy herself?
Yes, she’d got to play in the playground twice. Twice! She repeated, with added emphasis to show me just how fantastic that was.
Did she play with any of the other children?
Yes, a boy and some girls.
What were there names?
I don’t know.
You’ll have to ask them tomorrow.
Because you’d want to be called by your name wouldn’t you. (She changed the subject, unconvinced and not wanting to try)
Do you remember how to ask someone French their name. (She adamantly changed the subject)
I gave her her gouter and we drove back to Les Grandparents Francais. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to share my children’s lives with my folks. Living so far away from both sets of grandparents in the UK was hard; I move country but I’m closer to my family! That’s a win!
All the same questions again, from multiple sources. Everyone is received that she’s had a wonderful day – she seems ecstatic!
All evening and the next morning she’s trying to remember the words in French she’s learnt and asking me the names of other words. It takes her a while to settle down as she’s still so stimulated by the day she’s had.
The next morning, whilst answering another 100 questions on what so and so is in French I encourage her to think about how to ask someone’s name again. “Do you remember how to ask? Comment tu t’appelles?” On the drive to school we sing a song with the words for asking someone’s name and saying ‘I’m called…’ In French.
When we arrive I see the same little boy and his father from the day before. I say hello to him and he offers me a hand to shake. “Hello” he says in English. La Belle looks on shyly, but later on she recounts this event with absolute astonishment. “He said hello to you mummy – in English!”
I complimented him on his English in French, and his dad translated my words to him because – and I’ve experienced this before – no children understand my French. (I’ve tried to have a conversation with children at the church childrens group and they’ve looked blankly at me. Then ones turned to the other with a loud “oh, c’est prês d’ici”, repeating exactly what I’d just said like she’d cracked the enigma code).
His father let me know that we were meant to take the children to the classroom were we met Madame French, La Belle’s teacher, again. I call her Madame French because my brother (who I’ve been quietly calling b****y Sean under my breath ever since) convinced La Belle that her teacher would be called Mrs French. That’s what La Belle keeps calling her, no matter how many times I tell her that’s not the case, even under Madame’s nose.
As we waited to speak to madam another girl came near the door with her father and looked shyly by, a navy blue, flowered hairband in her hair. “Look mummy, that’s my new best friend” La Belle said.
All considering things couldn’t be better. I’m off now to answer another few hundred questions about what somethings called in French.