The way the French prepare for the school year and the way Americans prepare for the school year are very different. Americans receive letters in the mail to know when registration is and at registration you find out who your teachers are. In France, you get nothing. Nothing in the mail, nothing told to us the last school year, Nada. All of us ex-pat wives had been asking one another if they had heard anything or received anything in the mail and no one had. So the weekend before school was to start Michael checked the school website and it had a schedule up. But wait, it was a schedule on what time to show up to school so you could stand amongst the masses and wait for them to call out your child’s name for each teachers class. Seriously. It actually went a little faster than expected and we were on our way to Brooklyn’s K-3 class. The pre-school section is in another building so I walked Brooklyn there and opened the door. Immediately, I hear this horrific wailing coming from one of the classrooms. And as luck would have it, it was Brooklyn’s new classroom. I hung Brooklyn’s book bag in her cubby and got in line with our huge bag of school supplies. The wailer is still wailing and then I get my first glimpse. A lady has a death grip on his arm while he tries to get out of her grasp while practically lying on the floor and pushing away from her with his feet. At this point, the wailer lets out a Halloween Horror Story scream and Brooklyn makes a scared face and says, “Mommy, what’s that?” in her shaky scared voice. Great, I think. Brooklyn is doing good and this kid has to scare her (and a couple others who started crying after they heard that scream). I finally get in the classroom and talk to the teacher’s aide who is checking in those of us who attended the school last year. The wailer has been going on for about 10 minutes at this point, and I hand over all Brooklyn’s school supplies, fill out a French form that I barely understand, and ask a few questions in my broken French. Twenty minutes have now passed and the wailer is still going at it. The woman is now petting his cheek and trying to get him to stop. I’m pretty sure caressing his cheek isn’t going to work. Leave him in the classroom, beat his tail, or take the kid home before he makes more kids start crying and before all the kids are scared to go to school. Sheesh! Imagine trying to listen to the teacher’s aide talking to you in French, which is immensely difficult, while trying to tune him out.
But alas, more fun was to come. On the way out we met the classroom teacher. She was holding a little blonde girl who was crying hysterically while her mother was asking questions. This kid was trying to launch herself off the teacher like a cliff diver to get away. The teacher once tried to put her on the floor and hold her hand but the kid started to bolt so she picked her right up again. At this point, the wailer is still wailing, and this hysterical girl had turned to dry heaving she was crying so hard. The teacher is trying to hold her so she doesn’t get vomited on and the little girl had snot everywhere on her nose, lips, in her mouth, and on her chin. I’ve never seen so much snot. I have no idea where she was storing it all. And then I saw something. Her name tag. Her name was Madonna. It was like a light bulb went off. Now I totally understand why she was crying.
Even amongst the chaos Brooklyn did great and was so happy to go to school. I made her special first and second day of school outfits (I bet you didn’t know about the special second day of school outfit, did you?) and I think she was absolutely adorable! And I’m just kidding….I’m not aware of a special second day of school outfit. Brooklyn just happened to have another outfit I made that she hadn’t worn yet. Brooklyn was also so excited to see her BFF French friend Esther and excited that her other BFF Alinah was in her class too. When I picked Brooklyn up she said she had fun at school and was very happy. Except that she doesn’t get to eat all the time (although she didn’t tell me that) and she is starving when I pick her up from school. The second she sees me she is asking for something to eat. I learned last year to never forget to have a snack when I pick her up. The consequences are disastrous!