Friday, August 29, 2008

Back to School à la Suisse

It's been quite a week here in the Mighty household. The girls have gone back to school and done so with a vengeance. They woke at 5a.m. Monday morning, were dressed by 5:30, and were eating their second breakfast at seven. Quarter to eight saw them alternately skipping and running to school. After an offhand peck on the cheek, both ran into line behind their classes without so much as a backward glance. What a difference three years makes.

On August 29, 2oo5, Emma the Brave, age four, began première enfantine, the equivalent of Canadian junior kindergarten. All of her friends from preschool were to start at the International School the following week, but Emma's mean mommy was making her attend the local French school in Corsier. Mighty Mouse started preschool the same day at the crèche next door called La Pomme. Believe it or not, that late summer morning started almost the same. They woke early, posed for an obligatory first-day-of-school photo, then ran out the door. Where things differed was in the school yard. Emma the Brave froze.

"I don't want to go," she said, digging her fingers into my palm.

"I do!" said Mouse, running off toward La Pomme.

So off to La Pomme we went, tying Honey to fence out front.

The La Pomme teachers greeted Mighty Mouse with gentle enthusiasm. They showed us where to hang her sweater and put her snack, then asked if she had 'pantoufles,' the required footwear for students inside all Swiss public schools. Proudly, I produced a pair of pink slippers from Mouse's backpack and put them on her feet. Ha. Can't trick me! ( Emma had needed a pair for preschool the previous year.) Now properly attired, Mighty Mouse took the teacher's hand and walked off toward a table with modeling clay, waving good-bye over one shoulder.

That was it. One down, one to go!

Seconds later, Emma the Brave and I were skipping off toward her school next door. Our skipping slowed to a stop as we neared the steps. Honey yipped at being left behind

"I don't want to go," Emma repeated.

Somehow I cajoled her inside and ultimately to her class. Her teacher met her at the door and shook her left hand as Emma's right was occupied draining the blood from my fingers. I lingered as long as I could, until the teacher called the group to sit at a circle of benches at the front of the class. When I rose to leave, Emma burst into tears and ran after me. Her teacher led her back inside and sat Emma on her lap in the circle. It took everything in me to walk back out the door.

Honey jumped to her feet the moment I reappeared as if to say, 'Finally!' As I reached to untie her, I heard a familiar sound, or rather, a familiar wail.


I took the steps into La Pomme two at a time as Honey barked in exasperation. When I entered the class Mouse was standing in the middle of the room, sobbing.

"We tried to call you, but there was no one home," a teacher said as Mouse tried to bury her head under my shirt.

At that moment I wished I could manage a sarcastic 'No kidding?' in French. Lord, help me!

So I stayed at La Pomme with Mouse for the rest of the morning. She refused to look at the teachers, let alone the other kids. "Me no like boys," she muttered past her thumb, which she was sucking with Hoover-esque vigor. There were quite a few boys--more than half the class-- but Mouse's antipathy had everything to do with me leaving, testosterone producing entities notwithstanding.

We reemerged from La Pomme at 11:30 to a very confused (and relieved) Honey. Poor pooch. When the school bell rang, we collected Emma the Brave and the four of us headed for home. It would be a solid five weeks before the girls would truly settle in, but settle they did.

Three years later they have more friends than they know what to do with, both English-speaking and French. Last year they were invited to a grand total of 23 birthday parties--a mixed blessing if there ever was one. I wouldn't wish us back to that day three years ago, but I have no regrets. Well... Maybe just one. If I had to do it again, I would leave Honey at home.

No comments:

Post a Comment