1. Eating together as a family
We have a balcony in the apartment with a little kitchen that looks over the studio. Above us a huge window looks up to a courtyard of trees and a line of tall Parisian apartments. We sit here every day and eat our meals, together. Proper meals, proper food, together as a family. It has been a revelation – I thought perhaps we might go stir crazy being together 24/7 but apart from a rocky start (see last week!) and the odd disagreement, we are loving being together. Who knew we could enjoy each other so much? In London we seem to manage family meal times only a few times a week and they are often fractious affairs – Theo not adhering to the sitting down philosophy of the meal, Tony offending me greatly by reading or checking his phone, or just a general sense of ‘lets get this done as we’ve got other things to do’ and me freaking out because this is supposed to be family time, which naturally makes the whole ambience so much more fractious. It reminds me of my dad shouting at us kids when we were little :‘sit down, be quite and have a good time!!!’
Doing this every day seems to have taken the pressure off. Sometimes there is newspaper reading (I’ve banned iPhones from the table though), most of the time there is just chatting and lots and lots of questions from Theo (When you have driving lessons are you able to go food shopping? If nature kills people and animals, why doesn’t it go to jail?) Having nowhere to rush off to has brought the pleasure back.
2. Total collaboration with Tony – on work and childcare
Tony and I have worked together on projects for years but it usually takes the format of – have a meeting, write a to-do list and go our separate ways to get things done. Similarly, both working for ourselves and wanting to be with our kids for the maximum possible time we’ve done a lot of tag-team parenting. I usually left early for work and returned early, Tony would leave late and come home late. Working in the same vicinity never crossed our minds, it just sounded foolish, but now being together (and being older and wiser) we have started to properly collaborate on all things and it’s amazing. I love working with Tony and our business is flourishing because of it. And so are our kids. It’s great for them so see us together so much. Even though we aren’t rushing and are enjoying our days more, we are getting just as much done. Ironic and amazing.
3. The French obsession with food and pleasure
I have always been obsessed with the French obsession with food. I am obsessed with food, ditto I am obsessed by nations which are obsessed by food. Ever since I came to France as a child and saw that they gave exotic cheeses to children, regularly had 3 or 4 course Sunday lunches, talked about food as it should be talked of – with reverence – I knew this was the country for me. I had a few stumbling blocks with the actual French (a French exchange when I was 14 that was meant to last 6 months ended early because they didn’t like my alternative dress sense and they banned me from wearing my pink tights. I butted very hard into the conservative, provincial French culture. I also had a short, sharp spell at the French Lycee here in London, the experience was jarring) but it has not stopped me from loving the way they look at life. Have lots of holidays! Eat amazing food at every meal! Take your time and enjoy life! What’s not to love? The English are lovely but there is an obsession in London with being super busy, and super rushed. The English talk a lot about stress, enjoying life, slowing down – but few people actually do it. All we really have is the here and now – so why not enjoy it? And what better way to enjoy it than with food that makes your mouth water?
4. Morning purchase of fresh croissants
Every morning I walk a couple of streets to our favourite boulangerie for warm croissants, pain au chocolate and almond croissants. Although I have started to forgo this pleasure (a combination of post-baby weight, pre-baby weight and not having the metabolism of an 18 yr old like Tony), it is one of my favourite times of the day. The clean, wet streets, the waking city, the sunshine and a few minutes alone without kids is a beautiful way to start the day. Being springtime in Paris doesn’t hurt either.
5. No rushing
One thing I am terribly grateful for is not having to rush Theo out the house every morning to go to school. Or actually rush him anywhere. It didn’t matter what time we got up or how organised we were, there would inevitably be one or several altercations on the way out the house. Getting a six year old who finds everything endlessly fascinating to get ready was terribly stressful. When he had the binoculars out to watch the baby foxes in the garden or was making a sock monkey or trying to work out why wax melts, it seemed terribly annoying to have to interrupt all of this learning to go and learn something else.
And actually one last one….
6. Loving un-schooling Theo
Tony and I have panicked endlessly about our approach to home schooling – what if we fuck it up? What if we choose the wrong path? What if he can’t read or write when he’s 16?!? But we always return to this principle – the human mind is the most curious, innovative and insatiable entity in this world. All this stuff that humans have created has come from this overwhelming need that the human mind has to see, learn, know, create and challenge. All we are doing with our schooling method (un-schooling it’s called) is allowing this entity free rein. I truly believe that mainstream education system quashes this curiosity for most of us. It doesn’t trust that kids want to learn and so forces them to adhere to a strict curriculum that doesn’t allow for stoking the flames of children’s innate curiosity.
We have spent our first month here de-schooling, which has meant for Theo that he’s been on ‘holiday’, but for us has meant we are examining how he learns when completely left to his own devices. We have suggested projects, many that he’s rejected and some he’s picked up and run with. And by doing this we can see where the natural learning occurs and how we can enhance it. Children learn during every moment they are awake. Whether you are aware of it or not, they are drinking it all in. And if you can help them by introducing new ideas and new projects then in theory they can get all of the education they need in this fashion. I didn’t realise how much I would LOVE this. Due to severe impatience I am not a natural teacher, but I realise like all humans I am a natural learner and that curiosity is what I need to keep alive in me and in Theo to make this whole thing work. So far Theo has become a lot more relaxed, a lot more helpful and compliant with the house rules and he seems to have matured quite dramatically. We shall see if he continues to flourish….!