Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School or La Rentrée

Yesterday was the first day of school...for all three kids, Littlest included.
all fresh and new
It's not compulsory but most French kids (babies) go to school at three years old. It's called the Maternelle and it's kind of a glorified day care...at least for this first year.
As you may remember, the Littlest went to French créche last year and before settling into the calm, quiet French stylee ways he was quite a spectacle. He got used to it though and we were both happy with his three hours/three afternoons a week.
Real school is just four days a week here and he doesn't have to go the entire day, plus with the two hour lunch break....well it'll end up being just about the same thing. The good thing is that his new school is on the same grounds as the Big Kids' so I feel happy knowing they're together.

Back to yesterday.

We woke up early, all very excited and shared a breakfast of Daddy-made waffles and Mommy-made smoothies. Everyone looked fresh and nice by the time we were out the door--new school supplies, backpacks and shoes.

And somewhere along the way, it hit me. My oldest child is in the 4th grade. And this, more than anything else, made me want to cry. I think we've never really considered how time is passing schoolwise because over here, and in Ireland too, the class years are called different things. Ma Fille is officially in what the French call, 'CM1' so sure, no problem, CM1. That's manageable.
But 4th grade? I started getting boobies in 4th grade! I had my first crush in 4th grade! And I'd already made my first real best friend by then too...the friend who I spent every weekend and rode around in the neighborhood on a golf cart with.

And then I got to thinking. And looking. And realizing that it's true.

She walked in all self-assured, greeted her new teacher and kissed us goodbye. Stunning.

And then there's the Middlest. I think I am safe in officially declaring this (drumroll please): The Year of the Middlest.
sparkling & self-assured

He has always been, in the way of middle children, kind of middley; a bit unsure, a bit sensitive, maybe a touch hesitant. But yesterday and today he was sparkling with confidence. I think it helps that he's already done the French school thing for one year. I think too that he's finding his footing through simple maturity and a bit of distance from his omnipresent Big Sister.

But there's a wheelbarrow full of credit that should go to the teachers. His teacher last year was fantastic. And this year he has Ma Fille's teacher from last year and she's beyond lovely. I don't know if you remember but she's the one who wrote and directed last year's Big Spectacle. And she's thought my Middlest was the cat's pjs ever since he convincing and hilariously enacted 'terrified' during practice.
Yesterday when I said hello to her and told  her how glad I was that he's in her class she said something like this, 'It was my wish'. He was beaming with that same sparkle when we picked him up after school and this morning he combed his hair, 'for Madame Greenhouse'. (we think it's fun to call our teachers by their translated names) Brava Mrs Greenhouse!

But. The Littlest. Mon Mari and I walked away with him crying; fat, little baby hands covering his eyes while his teacher hugged him. On with the sunglasses to hide my own tears.
look out people!
He was fine when I picked him up three hours later and treated him to a bike ride down the big hill.

Ten years of parenting, five years of school and two and half languages. (Irish included) I am proud of my resilient babies and all they've accomplished.
Now to the question of boobies and crushes for which I am decidedly unprepared.

I hope you have all had a happy and successful rentrée.


  1. Oh no! That crushes my heart about the littlest! Today is my first day of work and my brothers' first day of school. I was running after them with a camera - my mom gave up years ago.

  2. Very cute story and great shots of les enfants. Yes, children are adaptable, and more than we know. I am so glad your kids have great teachers. Proud of your daughter too, for sporting a very French "cartable" instead of an American backpack ;-) Bonne rentrée à tous! Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

  3. You made me cry too. My middlest turned 20 today and my youngest is in the FIFTH GRADE! I feel really sad now.

  4. Aidan this was beautiful! You are such a great mom. Although the littlest's tears did make my chin quiver a little ...
    I'm glad the rentree went so well - mine has been more meetings than you can poke a stick at thus far, so I made myself feel better today by buying a whole lotta coloured pens and highlighters. That'll make me a more organised teacher fo'shizz.


  5. Thank you! One child back yesterday, one today and the eldest starts at University tomorrow. It is a bit sad, as well as welcome though - after nine long weeks of endless food shopping and the general chaos that having kids around involves! I miss having them around but we'll soon get into the school routine and forget all about holidays ...

  6. Too true! I had a big gulp last night when I realized my 'oldest garcon' is in SEVENTH grade now! (By US grades...) which is like Junior High school--yes?! Eeeeks! How do they grow up so fast when we, their ageless Mommies stay so vibrant and youthful?! I will just have to enjoy that 'petite fille' won't have school for at least 3 years from now and that by then she will have mastered 'toddler-French!'...... just like Mommy!
    xx mon amie!

  7. Brenna,
    I know. It was 'super sad' as he would say. I hope Thursday goes without any tears. Wish me luck. And keep taking those photos! You need them to mark the time passing. x

    Yes, she is tres chic, non? I hope you enjoyed the one day Americans give themselves off...Labor Day.

    I know! I can't believe it in other kids either. Time marches. I told G/K today that I remember when she was just Leo's age. xo

    You are too sweet. I hope the meetings end soon and you can get in front of those lucky students of yours. I think I'll go buy some hi lighters and maybe a new journal after the drop off on Thu. bisous.

    And then the mid-term break will be upon us. Let's enjoy it while we can!

    7th grade?! I'd gone beyond 'crush' by then and was onto 'going together'. Gag.
    And yes, we are very vibrant and youthful aren't we? I love us!!!

    Sweet dreams to you all,
    aidan x

  8. Our two boys start back tomorrow. Up at 7! And still we haven't manage to make them sleep after a summer of going to bed really late!

  9. It is scary how they grow up - Ed has just started at College - maternelle was great, he made friends, played and learnt French, primaire was more serious and he learnt to read and write, but how has it sped to college so quickly? He has grown so much and matured so quickly I feel I can't keep up!! Good luck with the boobies!!!!

  10. Oh, the tears I shed when I left my crying children at school! But it had to be done and it was nice to see their transformation and how happily they went to school many days later.
    It is my first year 'sans rentrée' after 25 years... a strange feeling, I hadn't thought about this.

  11. Boobies are TERRIFYING!!! The Middlest is going to rock it, and the Littlest will learn that down hill bike rides solve most problems before aged 12. Then, the problems get a lot more complicated :)


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