Being a parent and making parental decisions sometimes feels like being one of those poor circus bears that teeter and totter on a big beach ball to the fascinating delight of an audience that just wants to see comedy and error.
And we Fraiture’s can most certainly provide the comic relief for the world to see. Parenting is one lesson after another in keeping your cool and trying desperately to set a good example for your children while you sometimes still feel like a kid yourself.
I am writing this particular blog entry because Mia has recently been asking more and more about having a sleepover at a friend’s house. And I am running out of excuses to say no. I don’t remember how old I was the first stayed over at a friend’s house. Perhaps I have blocked it out because I DO remember being in the 6th grade and being utterly terrified when my friends pulled out a Ouiji board (I was terribly afraid of the dark) AND invited boys over. A double whammy in one. Being the awkward, 6-foot (well, practically) late-bloomer that I was, all I wanted to do was go home to my parents. But I was paralyzed with fear of looking like a scaredy cat. So I endured the rituals of the Ouiji and the general indifference of the boys towards me (which I took as rejection and made me even more shy and bumbling) and was relieved when morning came and I could go home. I realize that Mia is a lot younger than I was at the time, but I am still not quite willing to let her go. No boys for at least 15 years!! On that note, her Dad has taken it a little further and has said no dating till you are at least 34 years old in our house.
Dinnertime and parenting just don’t seem to get along at the Fraiture’s. It’s a bit like watching a panicked stock exchange or the Korean parliamentary sessions, for that matter. Constant high-pitched chatter, occasional shoving and throwing of foreign objects, and a blur of fast-moving body parts. Sacha and I do our best to keep the calm, but we are sorely outnumbered by the little folks. We both often take a deep breath and try to squeeze as many words as possible into the chosen 30 seconds while each child is taking a bit of food. It is impossible to tell a story that is longer than 32 seconds. The occasion quickly digresses to Sacha and I practically having to hold up flash cards to each other in order to communicate at all. At the end, we feel utterly defeated. Everyone once in a blue moon, though, we get it right-everyone eats their food and is happy with the choice of dinners, no one cries or throws themselves on the floor in a tantrum puddle, and everyone gets a chance to tell their story. Even Remi. On these rare occasions, I even get to eat along with the rest of the gang instead of digging into a cold plate of lasagne.
Mornings are also chaos, as I often joke that I get 4.5 people ready each day. The four being the girls and I and the half being half of my dear husband. As much as my better half is a wonderful Daddy and an amazing husband, he is not a morning person in the least. He needs one of those handy little alarm clocks that fall off the bedside stand and maddeningly rolls around the room beeping till the person drags himself out of bed to go and turn the darn thing off. Yes, they do make these ingenious devices and yes, I am considering getting one for Sacha. All in all, this translates to me being the one getting us all up and out the door on time. I practically have us down to the minute. Including my cup of tea at 5:45 am. Unfortunately, I am not joking around here. Nothin’ but me and the birdies waking up at that hour. Oh, unless, by chance, Z is awake. And Mia, too. And occasionally Remi. Come to think of it, most everyone in our house is usually up and running by 5:30-6 am. Except for Daddy. Sigh. No wonder it sometimes looks like I have participated in (but most likely not completed) the Iron Man marathon by 7 am most mornings in our house.
Homework is another interesting time here at the Fraiture abode. For one, we have twice the amount of work with Mia, who is just a wee babe at six years old. This is because M and Z (and eventually Rem) are in the French school system. And that means that Sacha and I are responsible for teaching the girls reading and writing in English. We do French homework, too, of course. For Z, it’s still just fun-coloring, tracing, letters, and numbers. Fun for all! But for Mia, it’s an intricate collage of grammar, pronunciation, reading and writing, underlining (oh yes, the French love to underline anything and everything), and the dreaded (for me, at least), math. For me, math in any language for me is, well, cringe-worthy. And the French don’t mess around with learning at the elementary school level, so math is all the more challenging, even for a six-year-old. I am not kidding-I already have to look it over a few times (no distractions, STOP talking, everyone!!) in order to understand what the heck is going on. Even so, I still have to refer to my better half most of the time.
I cannot write a bit about parenting without mentioning the gorgeously pure, occasionally bewildering and sometimes maddening honesty of children. Boy, do I take a verbal beating from my kids from time to time. “Mummy, you don’t look so pretty today.” Or one of my all-time favorites-“Mum, your teeth are yellow”. That was Mia. I recoiled and immediately said, “No, they are NOT!” And then Mia came in for a closer inspection and insisted, “But Mum, they ARE a bit yellow.” Or when Zoë told me that I have a big bum and that I can’t fit on the toilet. Well, gee, THANKS. As if I weren’t already feeling crappy enough in my carefully-crafted rafted outfit of athletic shorts, tee-shirt, and flip flops. Knocked my bruised ego practically all the way to China.
Thankfully, parenting is also full of delights and joys, regardless of how many fatigue-induced zombie-like mothers and fathers there are out there walking around. My children continually amaze me with their spirit and humor, their strength of character, their cleverness, and their kindness. Their loyalty to family is already very much intact, and their loyalty to each other is fierce. I love this about them. And they crack me up every day as well. Humor is what makes this crazy world go around and in my house in particular, laughing with each other is what gets us through the chaos.