My daughter, my hero

Not all superheroes wear their underwear over their trousers. In fact some are just out of nappies…

Policemen, nurses, sports people, doctors, firefighters, soldiers are who we immediately think about when someone mentions the word “hero”. I doubt a regular toddler would even make the shortlist… But thats what I want to talk about. My three year old daughter. And the courage that she, and countless other non-french speaking toddlers summon daily to go to a school where they understand not a word, while their peers in other countries are still at home playing with mummy.

I am not brave. My daughter doesn’t get it from me. I am shy. New friends don’t see it but growing up I was constantly struggling in the background- not part of a sporting world that my younger siblings and parents were very much involved in. I felt excluded, I was stared at, and I lacked the courage to try to integrate. However, I had one thing in common with them and at the time I overlooked its importance, but in hindsight it was a huge advantage- we all spoke the same language!

When my husband and I moved to France we had dreams of the good life- outdoor living, good food and wine, and giving our children the opportunities we didn’t have growing up- to experience a different culture and become bilingual. However by the time our daughter was two, I was seriously doubting our dreams and wondering whether what we wanted was what was really best for our children. While friends at home in the UK kept their children at home playing games, painting, and singing we were facing the hardest decision so far as parents- where to send our two year TO SCHOOL! Fellow Mums here in France sent their children to bilingual Montessori schools and they settled in well. They marvelled at how happy their children were, how they’d learnt to take their shoes off when entering a house and how helpful they had become. However none of them mentioned the French and thats what why we here right? So I took a different approach and cautiously registered my daughter at the Mairie for the local, all french speaking school. After all, that is what my husband and I had discussed. What WE wanted for her. What WE thought was best

So at two years old I dropped my daughter at a strange school gate, not speaking nor understanding a word of French and hoped that she would settle in. She hadn’t been to nursery- I had naively kept her at home with me enjoying the time we had, knowing it was so little compared to what we could of had at home. 

And this is what I mean when I say toddlers are brave.

At three years old my daughter walks into a classroom every day where she cannot understand a word that’s being spoken. She plays with children who she cannot communicate with, eats food that she is unfamiliar with and struggles to make herself understood for even the smallest thing- in her case saying “I don’t like potatoes”. Everyday she fights a hundred little battles in comprehension. And I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t walk into a room of strangers that I couldn’t understand…I don’t know of many fully grown and mature adults who could.

I won’t pretend that we don’t have tears, and I won’t pretend that it’s easy. In fact waving her goodbye at the gate is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Because I know what it’s like to not fit in. I know what it’s like to be on the outside- I feel it every day myself waiting to pick her up at the gates. I am not saying that my way is the right way or that this is the school she’ll stay in for the rest of her education. What I am saying is that I know I wouldn’t have the courage she does. The courage that hundreds of young boys and girls have – whether they’re English, Swedish, Italian or German – to put themselves in an unfamiliar, foreign environment every day. She’s my hero…. They are all my heroes…

So now I am counting down the years until I can send her to the prefecture for my Carte Grise…. But in the meantime if she’s brave enough to go to school each day I suppose I had better summon my courage, put my underpants over my trousers and go and call the electricity board about that unpaid bill…

3 comments for “My daughter, my hero

  1. Laura
    April 30, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    She is brave but so are you and the “old boar” for giving her this chance x

  2. karen
    May 1, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Really touching and thought provoking. It is amazing how often we put children in situations and expect them to adapt, when as fully grown, emotionally mature (ish) adults, I know I would struggle with many of these things (I’m including my own in this). But the fact that you’re doing this thinking for her, so that you can help her when she has these thoughts means that she’ll grow up to be a reflective, emotionally stable adult, and we can’t hope for much more than that!! Xx

  3. Lesley
    May 2, 2017 at 6:33 am

    It’s so,so tough for you all ,but oh my,what a gorgeous ,bright ,little darling she is developing into every day ,keep strong and positive.

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