Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bring me a suppository

Down by the riverside.

Bothering daddy at work.

Going berry picking after dinner.

Tick, tick, tick. Does anyone else hear that? Why is it that the clock, on its constant sweep of time, gets so much louder at the end of summer?

Something is in the air. Perhaps the end of summer approaching. These Frenchies are trying to milk every drop of what’s left of the long hot days, to suck the light right out of the sky.

While I was putting the girls to bed, dutifully, before the witching hour of nine, the other night. I could hear what sounded like the whole town still up partying. Damn those French!

One child was barking, howling, at his mum for dinner. Another family was just sitting down in their front garden for their nightly meal; kids laughing, glasses clinking, forks dropping on kitchen floors (sounds remarkably the same as a fork dropping on a kitchen floor in America), grownups chatting, cats mewling.

We were going to bed.

As I read Pocahontas, in French, to Isla, she’s not a stickler for pronounciation, I could hear the monotonous thump, thump of distant techno music. It was coming from the local fete, across town, that was just getting started.

I knew that fireworks were supposed to start sometime close to ten and chose to keep it secret from Esther and Isla because they just haven’t achieved the level of stamina that these French children have.

After they fell asleep, I snuck downstairs, planning to grab my French book and get into bed and conjugate some verbs. The music seemed louder. My curiosity grew. Who, in this small town, would go to a fete at almost ten o’clock at night? Certainly no one with kids. Ha.

I told Ian I was taking a walk and headed up to the train station to do some spying. When I got there I saw a mini carnival in full swing. Loud music, candy floss, bumper cars, a merry-go round, and a large handful of parents and small children milling around. There, I thought. Silly French people. Why can’t they start a party early enough for people to actually go to it?

I stood around watching the bumper cars for a few more minutes, then stopped to talk to a Brit couple, who have grown kids, who were waiting for the fire works.

Just fifteen minutes later, it must have been 10:30, as I was leaving, people started steadily filtering in. Not just people, but families--moms, dads, babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, grade schoolers....

And not a single child was crying, or whining, or misbehaving. They just quietly clung to their mommies’ hands, or sat in their strollers, and waited to get there.

And they just kept coming. As I walked towards home through the dark streets, it was like the family-friendly verson of Dawn of the Dead. Family after family walked, slowly, methodically, in the opposite direction as I did. I had the strangest sensation that I was an alien, a different species from these people.

Am I the only person in this entire country whose kids fall apart when they're tired? Is there something I'm missing here? Is this why no one wants to talk about all the nuclear reactors?

It makes me feel like I’m an overprotective mom. I need to take a chill pill. A suppository, perhaps, and let go of this need to control everything, including my kids shedules?

Seeing these families, happily together, just an hour before midnight while mine were tucked safe in their beds, makes me feel like a fun-averse prude.

I considered, for a passing moment, waking Esther and Isla up and surprising them with a midnight firework, cotton- candy treat.

Ian was watching a movie when I got back. I sat down in the chair next to him and watched the screen.

When the blast and crack of not-so-distant fireworks, crashed through the night air, I ran upstairs and closed the girls' bedroom window so they wouldn't hear.

When the fireworks went quiet, I stretched my ears in hopes of hearing the sound of some crying children. It was totally quiet.


me said...

We struggle to not be so scheduled, to flex bedtime and be 'fun'. Yet the tiny one is a mess without sleep - and not just any sleep - regular, on-a-schedule-kind-of-rest is what's required for a happy her. Which has an added bonus of helping make a happy all of us. I hate feeling less than fun and spontaneous. But I love having a happy (well-slept) kid.

Mama Badger said...

Is it just an American thing? You read it all over. Children with schedules are happier. Free form parenting is for the brave.

Maybe it's what we teach them to expect. If they don't expect a schedule they don't need one as much? I don't know.

Ask those Frenchies and report back. How do they make it work?

Jolyn said...

I never got it either. When we lived in Italy with two very young children, we rarely ever went out to eat because they didn't even start warming up the ovens until 6:30... 8:00 dinner out? I would not enjoy that at all with my tired kids.

I agree, ask those Frenchies and report back. I can almost guarantee they'll just shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh, you silly Americans and your rigid mentality on child rearing." Or some such haughtiness. said...

I'm sort of a stickler when it comes to bedtime, my hubby on the other hand is not. Sometimes I wish I could just take a chill pill.

Joyce said...

Any idea when the children get up in the morning? Something's got to give.

Betsy said...

The sleeping in thing definitely plays a role in this. My kids just don't know how to do it. The later they go to bed, the earlier they wake up, then I, we all, suffer all the more.

I will do some more investigating, checking medicine cabinets, stealthily, for Xanax, etc.

It is truly maddening.

Liz said...

If my daughter would sleep in, I would be more flexible with bedtime too. But she doesn't. It's exactly as you described Betsy -- the later to bed, the earlier she wakes up. I used to freak out about this, but I've read that it's actually very physiologically normal for young children. Up until this summer (she's now 7) she was actually very happy to nap, but somehow this summer she can't seem to slow down enough to rest when she's tired. After all these years I'm actually back to taking an afternoon drive to give her time for a catnap.

mooserbeans said...

Whenever I try to be a fun parent and let them stay up there's hell to pay the next day. It is crazier with a preteen in the house. I am trying to get her back on a school schedule, but she seems to be wired to stay up half the night and sleep all morning. This is going to be a rough fall.

Ticia said...

Umm, well I think I have one of those really easy children. If he stays up late , he sleeps late. It just always works out. If he has school I try to get him in bed by 9 and asleep by 10. He pops up when I tell him it's time, but he really enjoys his sleep. We always sleep in on the weekends until around 10:30. I've had it really easy with him. I'm about to give birth to a girl and I have nightmares about a child who wakes up at the crack of dawn. I'm just praying for another sleeper!!

Clare said...

I have been living in France for 10 years, and my children were all born in France. And yet, they don't seem to be real Frenchies... Could the Australian blood be thicker? I have the same problem as you Betsy - late to bed, early up. and that makes EVERYONE grumpy. Most of my friends have children who sleep in with no problems, and I don't know anyone who puts their kids to bed as early as I do (I aim for 8). But I think it's to do with work hours. Most parents work until 6 or 7 pm, so dinner and bathtime is necessarily later. Maybe Mam badger is right, and it's all about what we teach them to expect.

Glad the adventures are going well :)

cecile said...

Do you think that a "fete", once, is a lack of schedule ? It's so exciting for a child to stay up late... I think those "frenchies" (I'm one myself, in fact :-)) like too much to party or go out themselves to stop it totally just because they have kids.
My own 2 French-American babies are usually in bed between 7:30 and 8, but when there is the occasional party, they stay up late, and yes, sometimes the next day is not that funny, but then they go to bed earlier, and we're back on schedule, aren't we ?

Betsy said...

The fete was just an example of what I've noticed since I've been here. Kids, kids kids, running around at all hours into the evening. I noticed it even more in Italy. I am not so much judgmental as I am jealous. I would love to go out more at night. My kids just can't handle it. Perhaps I need to train them better.