Tuesday, March 27, 2012

'je ne parle pas français'

Way back when we still lived in South Africa my kids attended a daycare run by a friend of the family. She lived just down the road from us and started the daycare to supplement her pension.

The kids loved Linda. She was kind and friendly and had the world’s patience. It was also a very small group of kids. I think by the time we left she had 6 girls and Tiger.  The girls were all roughly the same age as Cat so had we stayed in South Africa they would all have started school together.

And, like you now if you kids go to daycare or school you tend to get to know some of the parents.  I really liked the parents of these other girls. We got on well and often stood chatting for ages when picking up our kids in the afternoons.  Then there were the birthday parties, always fun for the kids and the parents.

I miss that.

Kids start school/daycare at a very early age in Belgium in general. Unless you are one of the lucky few who can afford to be a single income family your kids go to daycare from the age of 6 weeks (at the end of your maternity leave). I am so glad I never had to do this.  This means that the parents get to know each other quite well as your kids will go from day-care to pre-school (age 2½ to 5) to primary school and up together. Often all these stages are available at a single school.

Anyway, the thing is I don’t speak a whole lot of French. I speak enough to get by plus I speak Dutch and since I work only in English I’m not exposed to a lot of French. I realize that this is my problem but unless someone invents more time in every day going for French lessons is not possible at this point in time. In fact, my work paid for me to do a French course a couple of years ago. My French really improved but thanks to cost cutting French lessons are seen as a luxury.

Now what does me not speaking French have to do with me missing the interaction I had with the parents of the kids I mentioned earlier?


These days, due to my lack of French I have next to no interaction with the parents at my kid’s school. (Some of you might wish you were in the same situation). On the odd occasion that I pick the kids up from school I’ve been asked if I was their older sister.

At school functions I stand around like a lost fart in a perfume factory.  Just this week I received an invitation from one of the parents, sent out to all the parents, for dinner. The idea is for the parents to all go out for dinner and get to know each other better.  

This is a great idea, except of you have to attend it without your better half (who is out of the country) and you don’t speak French!  I can’t think of anything more isolating / embarrassing than sitting around a dinner table between a bunch of strangers who all speak a foreign language.  Mind you my French is not that bad, I would be able to understand most of what would be said but I lack the confidence to speak.

I think I need to get a shirt like this to wear everytime I have to go to the kids school

So that is why I miss the parents from the first daycare. I miss being able to bitch chat to other parents about school stuff. About the kids and the teacher and the weather and all those things that one tends to chat about at the school gate.

But I’ll admit, sometimes it’s great to have a valid excuse for not attending another boring school function.

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