Today was the first day of French school for the kids. I can’t blame jet lag anymore for my lack of sleep, last night it was my nerves. The children slept fine. They’ve been looking forward to the first day of class for a while now. Kailas knew there would be toys- and pretty little girls to play with. Sagan loves the structure of school in general. Both were excited about the idea of a two hour hot lunch since they’ve always had cold meals sent from home.
We’ve been working up to this day for years. One of the last hurdles was a visit to the city hall last week for permission to enroll our kids into school. We needed to bring birth certificates, health records, proof of residence (that we live close by) and passports for everyone. In case they wanted to see our marriage license – we brought that too!
The Mairie de Lyon, 2ème arrondissement, is only a short walk from our apartment. The first time we went there, it was ten minutes before closing so they turned us away. Our second attempt ended in success. Annie (and Ellie!) accompanied us to help with translation, making things much easier.
The next step was to meet with the Headmasters of the Lamartine, Ecole Maternelle Publique. Sagan and Kailas are in the same building, but they have different Headmasters. Last week the schools were out for winter break so it was not possible to contact them until first thing this morning. We set out early to do so.
Annie met us bright and early at 8 am in front of the school. Ellie stayed home with her daddy this time. We took Kailas over to his area first, but the Headmaster was already not having a good day when we walked in. She reacted as if we’d asked her to work weekends when Annie explained that we had a new child to enter the Cours Préparatoire (CP) class. She could not deny him since public schools must take the children they are assigned by the city hall. Annie later explained that this Headmaster would most likely have a better disposition later on. She was under stress from the first day back at school and the construction that is going on in part of the building- I guess having another kid thrust at her when they are already full was enough to make her boil over! We didn’t let her set the tone for the rest of the day. Onward to the classroom.
Up and up and up we walked, at least four flights up (I stopped counting) to his classroom. It was large and bright and full of wonderful artwork the children had made. Happily, Kailas’ teacher was much more encouraging. Mark and Annie left with Sagan to take her to class while I stayed with Kailas for about a half hour while he adjusted. His self-confidence took a dive when his big sister left. Children were arriving by the droves and everyone was very friendly but I could tell that he wanted to bolt. His bottom lip started quivering and tears welled up in his eyes. We sat in the hallway, and he explained that he was embarrassed because he didn’t speak French.
“That’s okay. Look, the children aren’t speaking, they are playing!”
He peeked into the classroom and saw a few boys on the floor playing with Legos, and the girls were drawing at a table. I convinced him to go check out the Legos, and within a few minutes he was sitting and playing with the other children. More and more children arrived, all very well behaved – but wow, what a lot of children! Kailas has over thirty in his class. It is a good thing his teacher appears very capable and energetic. Most importantly, she seems unflappable.
Since his class is so crammed, he was not able to have the two hour hot lunch. He didn’t mind the news. When Sagan found out however, she was visibly dissapointed. Mark and Annie tell me that she was very strong and determined when it came to joining her class – I didn’t get to be there when she was introduced. Mark told me some little girls came up and checked her out, but then walked away to go talk amongst themselves. I know that I would’ve been as jittery as a squirrel! I am glad to hear that her Headmaster in contrast had a welcoming attitude, and Annie thinks that later perhaps they may make room for our kids to join the others at lunch time.
We picked them up at 11:30 am and returned them at 1:30 pm for the second half of the day. They were all smiles. We passed this elaborate candy shop and they ogled it, knowing it was all off limits (candy only on Halloween). I was so proud of them for acclimating that I broke down and said “let’s get treats!”
When we returned to school for the second half of the day, a gaggle of girls swooped down over Sagan and she flew away with them. Kailas led us up the four flights and into his room where he promptly sat himself beside his new friend.