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.