Thursday, April 02, 2015

Free Range in France.

It always surprises me how quickly I can settle into a routine, even in the most unfamiliar circumstances. I'm someone who likes to know what's coming next, and when I don't know on an existential level it helps to know on a day to day scale.

I had half hoped that as soon as I got to France I would have an epiphany, that the clouds would clear and I would start to have a feeling for what the next steps would be. HA! If anything the clouds have thickened and I've spent the last eleven days in a complete fog of cotton-wool brain and treacle limbs. Despite the epic and inexplicable hangover I seem to be suffering from (I drank too much London last year and now I'm suffering. Or something like that) we have eked out a small and gentle routine from the confusion. 

We wake up after a night more or less asleep, more or less kept awake by frogs and wind and nightmares and unsettled children. The girls and I have horrible sugary museli together (the French suck at breakfast cereals) and then we spend an hour getting dressed, rolling around on the floor, attempting to shower, preparing snacks for nursery and arguing over who gets to give me my 17 different vitamins. Then we go upstairs to harangue grandpa into giving us a lift to nursery on time. 

The girls have been going to nursery in the mornings for just over a week and while they don't love it, yet they don't hate it every day, which is as much as I'm willing to ask for at the moment. While they're there I finish the shower I didn't manage in the morning; stare into space; tidy up; fill in the forms that get sent home from nursery with the help of google translate; stare into space; attempt and fail to answer emails, struggling as I do with putting words together in either English or French; walk the dog in the howling mountainside wind and then stare into space some more. 

We pick the girls up, we have lunch (pain, fromage, jambon, pomme, repeat), the girls have a quiet play time in their room and I stare into space some more and then when they're up we go and play in the woods, which is my favourite part of the day. The house is the last one on the edge of a national park and ancient oak forest is literally (literally literally) on our doorstep. We've been to visit this house several times but it's only in the last week that we've stepped off the fire path that winds up the hillside and into the trees. They're low and scrubby and the branches are at head-height. . . for four year olds. Walking through the trees involves a lot of me getting stuck in bushes, having to backtrack, losing sight of the children, swearing quietly as the dog looks on confused but happy. His five year routine of 7am and 4pm walks with my father in law has suddenly exploded into anarchy, people walking all over the shop at any hour of the day, total madness. My irritation at getting scratched, prickled, trapped, backached and lost is tempered by my delight at seeing my children explore and climb and fall, to see their disregard for the path, their glee at getting dirty, their willingness to get hurt and to get up and try again; that is what I wanted for them, for their childhood, not the paved paths and predictable climbing frames and rubber flooring of city playgrounds. 

All of the difficulty, the unfamiliarity, the revolting breakfasts melt away and become completely worth it when I see my kids wild, unplugged, free range in France. 


  1. This. is. so. lovely.

    So glad you're settling into a bit of a routine.

  2. Maybe this is the epiphany:).

  3. Oh, man, you're making me want to bundle my family up and move off into the woods. Any woods.

    It's going to be so fun for you guys to watch the forest wake up throughout this spring - I always loved seeing that growing up. We've noticed some snowdrops on our toddler-paced ambles around the block (in Portland, as-urban-as-it-gets-in Maine). We're seeing a new cast of songbirds showing up to the feeder, and the ones who've stuck around are singing new songs.

    What a wonderful time to be exploring a new forest.

  4. "... explore and climb and fall, to see their disregard for the path, their glee at getting dirty, their willingness to get hurt and to get up and try again; that is what I wanted for them, for their childhood, not the paved paths and predictable climbing frames and rubber flooring of city playgrounds."

    Yes yes yes! A million times yes. This is why, although I most often love the city, I want to raise kids somewhere that isn't NYC. It's good for us for now, but in the future.... there need to be woods.

    -C (long-time lurker, infrequent commenter)

  5. Loved your post. I too want to bring up free range kids but have to admit that the thought of taking them to live in a different country with a different feel and routine blows my mind! V jealous of your courage and the kids are lucky to have you :) I look forward to reading more about your journey.

  6. Read this recently and it stung - in a good way though.

    "If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little" - Anne Lamott


    PS - staring into space is HIGHLY UNDER RATED ♥♥♥♥♥♥

  7. Sigh. This makes me so happy. As I am sitting across the pond + then some (since i'm actually on the "south coast" of the US). And am a lawyer. (I have just refreshed on WHAT ARE YOU DOING AT YOUR IN-LAWS IN FRANCE WITHOUT N? Sorry for the caps, it has been that kind of day.) I'm totally with you -- or, at least, I read your delightful post, and I hear you saying, "Why did I think this trek up and down the mountain-forest with sharp-daggers-for-trees/bushes would be a good idea?" -- and then those glorious moments of dirty, resilient children = ahhh, that must truly be glorious. I literally described to a young, childless attorney whom I had the pleasure of sponsoring for admission into one of federal courts, the not-joys of, from my hub's and my perspective, there is not a lot to love about being a parent. Except for those moments of glory are just so blindingly bright, that warmth = all the rest of it. Ahem -- so glad you are still here, on the interwebs!

  8. introv.butterfly10/4/15 7:20 pm

    Your pictures make it all look so raw, so.. not idyllic, but actually real. Just splendidly real. I hope things get better and the French learning gets easier. I'm rooting for you.

  9. Oh pease, please, please continue to reflect the underlying etheral beauty "of it all" in some way. Weather it be via the lens or painting with words or some other way!

    Also rooting for you! //Johanna - Long time reader and very infrequent commenter

  10. As a fellow person living in flux (so, many, unanswered, QUESTIONS!!) I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Here's to making peace with the uncertainty!

  11. These photos are BEAUTIFUL.

  12. What wonderful moments in the French countryside! Ahh and you have 2 little ones now! I would love to bring my daughter to France some day and have her pig out on freshly baked baguettes and brie.
    Not every moment will be one of clarity. I always say that the path may be a murky and winding one, but it does lead somewhere. I'm also trying to make a big professional switch and figure out what really makes me tick. I hope that we both enjoy our time in the meantime!

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