First Day of School in France
Sending your child to their first day of school is exciting and emotional for all parents. Now add the complication of sending them to school in a culture you don’t understand and a language that neither of you speak. I had this overwhelming experience. Honestly, nothing could have prepared me for the overload of emotion I felt on this day. I am a social worker with an MSW, had worked in a school, a hospital and a preschool. I knew the rules, I knew everything…. or at least I thought I did.
It was a hot day in Bordeaux and my daughter was wearing an adorable little dress, big bow in her hair and we were both excited. We walked into the courtyard of the school and it was bustling with parents and children all, of course, speaking french. We were overwhelmed and she started clinging to my leg. Names were called out and one by one children lined up behind their teachers. Carli wouldn’t go. Her teacher came over and stretched out her arms. As I handed Carli over, she started to thrash and scream at the top of her lungs and she yelled “Mommy, don’t leave me here, I don’t understand them.” The teacher motioned for me to leave quickly. The whole playground was staring at us, watching this little girl scream over and over, “ Don’t leave me!” I turned heel and left.
I rode my bike to a nearby park on my way to my French class. I could not see because I was crying so hard. I stopped, parked my bike, and sat down on a bench sobbing. A man in a business suit came to me and asked me in French if I was okay. I told him I didn’t understand and he asked in English and I told him why I was crying. He smiled and told me my daughter would be fine, French was a beautiful language and she would soon learn and learn she did. Within months she was fluent. The crying and screaming lasted one week. Sometimes as an expat and as a parent we are faced with forcing hard things on our kids. The hard things in life, the bad days, the challenges are what help us create our character. We can’t always pack our children in bubble wrap and protect them. We need to walk it with them and sit back and watch as they become strong and confidant.