Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dichotomy of a good girl (Part One)

I've never really taken the time to totally listen to all the words to that infectious but kinda naughty Blurred Lines song.  For the longest time I thought it was called Good Girl since he says that line often.  Most people would consider me a good girl.  A tame girl.  Quiet even.  In school I was the quiet one, the one who made good grades.  I distinctly remember being a first grader though and chatting and joking with my friends and the sting of the teacher telling me/us to be quiet!  From then on I guess I was more conscious of staying calm in school.

I went on to make good grades and be that sort of "nerdy" girl all through high school.  I was lucky enough to go to a very small magnet school with other "nerdy" folks who accepted me though.  I had my group of friends with whom I could be myself and joke and play.  But part of me always wanted to shout out to the world that I wasn't really that quiet.  In my high school we could choose our own yearbook pose.  I chose one of me holding up a picture of a cute guy from a magazine next to my face.  I was trying to show my classmates I wasn't as shy as they thought.  But then again I was.

In high school and college I would often fall for boys who were not at all good for me.  I never went out with them (or anyone, for that matter), but boy, did I crush on them.  Looking back I can see they were all wrong for me.  But at the time, I was blind.

I went to grad school and my travelling bug made me apply for an international internship.  And for three months I lived in Holland, working in a greenhouse by day, sharing meals and conversations in broken English with other foreign students by night.  Suddenly I was surrounded by a motley crew of Russians, Ukranians, Swiss, French and Japanese people.  I was still probably the tamest of the bunch, not staying up too late or partying in any "coffee shops" (no siree, Bob, I didn't touch any space brownies!).  But I felt a bit of a thrill riding my bike back from the little dance club on a Saturday night with some of these new buddies.  And eating strange cucumber and potato salads with Eastern European students who seemed only to eat so they could continue to drink vodka (I only had a few sips, mom!). 

Meanwhile, love was blooming for some of my housemates, including a Swiss girl and a Latvian guy.  I was still the good girl though.  But the arrival of the French boy who I'd met at the foreign student weekend did make me a little giddy, though I probably wouldn't have admitted it at the time.  One evening I rode my bike over the rickety bridge that led to the other student house to pay a little visit to the new arrivals.  The French boys (for there were two) were settling in, and the one named Remi went upstairs with me to see his other housemate, a sweet Russian girl, to ask her how the Moby concert had been the night before.  I remember us going in her room where she was trying to sleep and sitting on her floor speaking in hushed tones to her...

Coming soon, Part Two...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Discipline Schmiscipline

I wish that things were easier when it comes to discipline.  I know I'm not alone when I say it's one of the toughest parts of raising a child.  My five-year old seems to come up with new challenges for me as if it's a game (and sometimes I think she's winning).  Now that she's in what they call "grande section" (the last class in pre-school, the equivalent to kindergarten), she thinks she herself is "grande" or big.  And therefore she can make all the decisions at home.  "C'est moi qui décide!" (It's me who decides) has become her new mantra. 

In situations like these I tell her she's not the boss yet and that she'll have to finish all her schooling (as in high school!) before she can really call the shots.  Sometimes this leads to a new crying fit because I dared to contradict her.  Then there was that mega tantrum last week getting her to take her bath.  She was lashing out at me physically through most of the bath and I even almost put her in the water fully-clothed. 

And as if these new kindergarten age challenges weren't enough, it's often compounded by the continual lack of concensus between my husband and me.  Five years into this parenting thing, we still don't seem to agree on the way to parent.  I know we've broken about all the rules like, Thou shalt not criticize thy spouse's parenting style in front of thy child.  But I do it, he does it, and I'm sure Juliette is getting quite the mixed signals. 

Take last Sunday.  Juliette was tapping her markers on the table and coyly saying it wasn't her.  We said, obviously it is you, and please stop.  But she continued and just as I was about to tap her on the shoulder and tell her to stop, Remi raised his voice louder than a drill sergeant telling off his new recruits.  Juliette started bawling and thus ensued an argument between the parents about just how far one should go in terms of shouting. 

It seems we can't find that magical compromise in terms of discipline.  Though young French parents are decidedly more open-minded than their parents' generation, I get the impression sometimes that the old "children should be seen, not heard" idea is still prevalent here. 

But after talking to some of my students who are also daddies, I've gotten some advice.  One told me about a book he and his wife use from the Super Nanny series.  This exists in Britain, too, and they have a website full of great articles.  I ordered the book in French in hopes that hubby will give it a glance.  Another says he and his wife try not to disagree with each other on discipline tactics in front of the children.  I don't know if I can keep to this one, but I'll try!

I know my little girl is good down deep and capapble of great sweetness.  Call her headstrong, call her stubborn, but I must stick with my gentle but firm approach and hope for the best.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In the middle and in the pink

Middle because lately my 39 year-old status is starting to weigh on me  Rather the 40 that I will become next year.  It's typical, I know  It's just a number, I know.  But numerical or not, these kinds of landmarks do make you think.  It makes you take stock about what you've done and hope to do.  In France, 40 is just about too late to change careers.  Maybe in the US, too, but in my adopted country things are just so rigid.  Jobs are scarce.  Fifty is just about considered senior status.  And though I have newfound pleasure in teaching and the creative outlet it gives me (read: getting to be a ham), there's part of me whispering, but what about that year you spent slaving in school to get your lab certification refreshed?  Is it now or never?  Is that still a viable and attractive option?  Too many questions for an indecisive girl (oh, geez, at nearly 40, I suppose I should say "woman") like me.

And this middle thing isn't just about work.  Those forehead wrinkles aren't getting any plumper.  I inevitably compare myself to younger girls on TV or in real life and realize that I'm not getting any younger, as the saying goes.  Vanity is getting the better of me lately.  Getting older is harder on women, let's face it.  Wrinkles don't make us more distinguished, just old.

cancer du sein,photographies,rubans,rubans roses,soins,symbolesThe pink is from a pink soirée I attended last night that was a breast cancer benefit party.  You were supposed to wear pink as this is the color for breast cancer awareness.  A special shout-out to my aunt who bravely underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction.  I just threw on a pale pink cardigan I had but was tickled to see how some of the other ladies were dressed.  Ice pink wigs and anything pink from their wardrobe or the dress-up store, including pink feather boas.  

The theme was pink pirates and the organizers, mostly British women from the local British/Anglican social group, did a great job coming up with fun activities.  You paid ten euros at the door and it was all for a good cause.  I liked seeing how these British ladies have adapted to life here.  Most were older, some considerably so than me, so it was a good chance to observe what other expats do/become as they stay in France.  I always enjoy seeing how dynamic most British women are at any age and it was inspiring.  These are women who are also far (though not quite as far as me) from home and they've become active and certainly have a happy outlook on life.

So I might be in the middle (and not so pleased about it) but I'll try to stay in the pink.  If only because it's more flattering to the wrinkles!