We deconfined in France last Monday and it has been actually really nice, even though I still spend most of my time at home and have seen like six more people than usual. Here’s how things are going for each of us:
J: He went back to work last Monday since companies are finally opening for the inspections he does. He was home for lunch on Monday, Thursday, and Friday which was nice. He gets masks for work that he has trouble wearing because of his glasses.
Littlest: Littlest went back to school yesterday, after spending two nights at his grandparents’ as well which he loved. His school wrote to us about two weeks ago asking if we wanted to send him back because it’s nationally on a voluntary basis. I said yes for lots of reasons:
- I love his school and was really hoping he would be able to go back before the end of this school year, his first.
- He no longer wanted to do much of anything with us during lockdown. Of all the fantastic activities his teacher e-mailed us, we managed to do half of one or two per week. And then he started not even wanting to go out in the yard, or follow us down to the basement. It was like all stimulation was emptying from his life.
- Work with him around was very limited. Even when J was home, I could only really work during nap time. And with J going back to work, any skipped nap would be stressful.
I was nervous about sending him back given the frankly age-inappropriate, strict health protocol for schools: no sharing toys, staying 1 meter away from everyone, no touching classmates or the teachers or caregivers…
But I compared it to how I felt back in August, when the entire French pre-school culture was brand new to me and I felt nervous about all of it. Littlest adapted great then and this seems to be the same. There are a tiny number of them in his group. He was only accepted back because I’m a teacher—spots are very limited. He’s alternating between the PS teacher (his) and the MS teacher (probably his teacher next year) and they are both lovely. It has been almost joyful seeing him back at the school, smiling and talking to people who aren’t me, even if they are generally 1 meter apart and their slide in the recess yard is marked off limits (and parents stand waiting at the gate, distanced by markers on the ground). Things are really different at the school—he has his own table with his own pile of toys and books and puzzles. But they seem to be still making things wonderful. (I just hope they aren’t feeling overworked.)
Me: FREEDOM! No, I’m kidding. In between running Littlest back and forth from school—including lunchtime these past two days—I’ve been able to dedicate myself more to teaching online. AND I found out I’m admissible for the agrégation externe—the upper-level competitive exam for the public school system. Since the interne orals have been pushed to September or October when I will have mini-me number 2 in my arms, I’m going to give the public exam my all (these orals are still supposed to happen this summer). So this study time is precious. I’ve been more in touch with my school since I’m a substitute union representative and the 6th and 7th graders are starting back next week, so we’re monitoring the conditions of their return. But all national decisions for lycée students have been pushed to the end of May, so I am skeptical that we will actually go back for classes.
I will technically be in the third trimester of pregnancy at the beginning of June, which puts me on the official list of vulnerable people. However I still feel like, if our students come back in some way, I’d like to be there. Obviously health protocol and possibly my doctor’s advice could weigh in if that decision has to be made.
Also, we found out that Littlest will be having a little brother. The nursery is pretty much finished and Littlest likes visiting it. He talks about becoming a big brother and other baby things and it is very cute.
On a side note, one positive of this time during lockdown is that I noticed Littlest’s English changing. He’s started attempting and making sentences, and choosing to say things in English when he also knows the word in French, or even saying it in English after saying it in French.
He retains complex explanations that I figured were going in one ear and out the other when I gave them. He has a little Playmobil 123 cow that has an udder, so I explained to him once that the milk we drink comes out of it, though the milk for the baby will come out of me. He didn’t say anything back at the time but gave his dad the equivalent explanation in French a few days later!
His French has gotten better too which is also interesting though less life-affirming for me. The other morning we were all sitting in the living room when he turned to his dad and out of the blue told him he hadn’t yet cut his beard. (It was true.)
I remember thinking before J went back to work last Sunday night that this strange but also special time, just the three of us, was over. I wondered how that would feel. So far it feels good but I do thing some remarkable things happened during it.