on french motherhood

The children play in the river all morning. When they start to ask about food I hide behind my computer. I am trying to finish an article. Yes it is holiday time, but I have a deadline. And they are playing, right? I throw in some peaches. Here’s food, healthy, they’re organic. I am present. I am a present parent. “Shuss I’m working” should win from being in some office out of sight. I think.

But I don’t know. Yesterday a french mother was telling someone else’s child to go back to the table and eat. Firmly like the French do. I told her in Holland it would be hors question to reprimand someone else’s child like that. She responded: “Here we think children have all their needs met. They lack of nothing. So beyond that it is every bodies task to tell them where the boundaries are”.

I like how the French treat their children. They have this unique combination of being very sweet and very strict at the same time. In Holland people are either strict or sweet, but never at the same time. I like how they take children (and pets as I come to think of it) serious, but always recognize the fact that they are children and should know their place. They never feel sorry for them, they teach them responsibility: You do as you are told and if you do there’s freedom.

The son had his first swimming lessons this week. On the first day (no swimming experience outside a 30cm deep river) they made him put his head under water 3 times in the first minute. I watched it with horror. Two minutes later he was jumping in the adult pool all by himself and had to swim 25 meters. The teacher was poking him with stick and made him do it again and again. Like a dog in panic he was splashing his way forward while she kept poking him and yelling: “Allee Max, Allee!” (Do you now that feeling you watch your child and are so happy you are not it…?) After half an hour he had swam 300 meters. The maitresse came up to me and said: “If he continuous to listen well, he will have his diploma in a week”. Meanwhile the son is very proud of himself and can’t wait to have another lesson tomorrow morning….


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