petite anglaise

January 24, 2006


Filed under: parting ways, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:28 pm

I have arranged to meet Mr Frog outside the front door of our my apartment building at 08.45 am, and Tadpole shrieks with delight as soon as she catches sight of the familiar figure striding towards us, Vespa helmet swinging from his left hand.

After one rapturous greeting (Mr Frog, Tadpole) and one slightly more awkward one (Mr Frog, me), we set off towards our common goal. Today we are meeting Madame D, directrice of one of the two local maternelles in our catchment area. Judging by the rasp of her voice on the telephone, I suspect Madame D has long nurtured a forty-a-day Gaulloise habit, and until she helpfully mentioned that her name was Brigitte, I wouldn’t have been able to assert with confidence whether I was conversing with a male or a female.

Of the two schools on the fiche de préinscription obtained at the town hall just before Christmas, I have opted to visit this school first, largely for the simple reason that the other school, a mere 100 m away, currently has a large poster stuck on its front door, proclaiming:


Alongside a cartoon depiction of some head lice executing a merry dance. That, along with the fact that the building the other school is housed in is a rather less attractive brick structure dating from the 1970’s, was research enough for me.

We climb the stairs to the headmistress’s office, passing a row of pegs where a rainbow tangle of coats and scarves hang under pictures bearing the names of their owners. The most popular names would still appear to be Léa (for girls, pronounced like the Star Wars princess) and Lucas (for boys, with a silent ‘s’). Through an open classroom door, I spy a group of children seated on the floor, listening intently to a story, remarkably well-behaved. In a larger room on the ground floor, children not much older than Tadpole teeter on makeshift stilts, fashioned from upturned buckets on strings.

Of course the ironic fact of the matter is that Tadpole will probably not be attending either of these schools come September. If all my plans come to fruition, my daughter and I will be living in the centre of Rennes by then, and her local school will be a stone’s throw from Lover’s house, and the local park. However, as schools in my arrondissement of Paris are notoriously over-subscribed, just in case anything goes wrong, bets must be hedged, and Parisian directrices must be courted. Better to be safe than sorry.

Mr Frog still wanted to come along, even though we were only going through the motions. I’m not sure why. The stated reason was that he wanted to feel involved, and have a point of comparison when I describe the school in Rennes at some time in the future. There may also be some denial involved. Either way, it transformed a visit which should have been vaguely exciting into a rather tense affair, both of us skirting hesitantly around the real issues for fear of igniting a row or unintentionally causing pain.

Happily, Tadpole remained blissfully unaware of the undercurrents, saucer eyes taking in every detail of the school.

Something tells me I will be spending this evening threading string through buckets and listening to the clattering of makeshift stilts on my parquet floor.


  1. I hate to tell you this, but there will almost surely be poux in whichever school Tadpole goes to, even an idyllic Breton one! But perhaps country poux will be slightly less repugnant than city ones…

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — January 24, 2006 @ 4:10 pm

  2. Despite the apparent tenseness, even slight sadness, of the school-visiting with Mr Frog, I can still taste the smallest hint of anticipation and excitement for the future in this post. Which is lovely.

    Comment by redlady — January 24, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

  3. What kind of nerd school is this? I would totally send my imaginary kids Darth and Chewie there, just to hang out with hundreds of kids named Luke and Leia.

    Comment by srah — January 24, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

  4. Something tells me I will be spending this evening threading string through buckets and listening to the clattering of makeshift stilts on my parquet floor.

    How are relations with the neighbours below? ;-)

    Comment by Iain — January 24, 2006 @ 5:00 pm

  5. I can still remember how fun those bucket stilts were, especially when one gets skilled enough to be able to RUN in them!

    (Also wondering how the meeting-the-friends thing went, should you feel like posting a weekend review…)

    Comment by quinn — January 24, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

  6. I don’t believe there’s much reason to assume there is some level of denial on his part, because he wanted to attend the meeting as well. I can imagine he feels that he has no sense of control in this entire matter, and as her father, it is certainly well within his rights and within reason for him to want to attend and have some control/involvement/”say-so” in the potential changes that will affect his child. He’s her father! He’s supposed to play some role in the decisions that affect his daughter’s life; he certainly has as much right as you do.

    I can’t even imagine how helpless/powerless he must feel with the ENTIRE situation. Give the man a break…it’s not solely up to you to dictate the life path of his/your daughter. I thought that was a really insensitive comment on your part.

    Comment by swissmiss — January 24, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

  7. Lovely, dear, but how was the weekend? ;-)

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — January 24, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

  8. Oh dear, I didn’t mean to sound heartless about Mr Frog and what he is going through. I can only guess, because he has never been a man of many words (I probably didn’t let him get a word in edgeways…)

    I suppose I’m surprised, because I hired the nanny alone, and made so many other decisions alone, that this went against the grain a little. But it’s definitely a positive thing.

    Comment by petite — January 24, 2006 @ 7:42 pm

  9. As for the weekend, it went something like this:

    curry – pub lunch – curry – English breakfast, washed down with lager and guiness. And of course the people I met were lovely and kind and non-judgemental.

    I really do worry too much.

    Comment by petite — January 24, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

  10. If you want advise from a school weary Mum, don’t judge a school on external appearance but on the HUMANE quality of the teaching staff. My kids go to a place that Stalin wouldn’t have put prisoners in, but love it. Whereas the local village school was run by two psycho-bitches (local doctors description-mine’s worse). Last bit of advice that you don’t need – think about scanning and mailing Tadpoles reports to Mr Frog and if they say anything remotely positive – have a party! I hope not, but you may come to understand what I mean in a few too short years time. Bon Courage.

    Comment by J — January 24, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

  11. Must be difficult for all, but it sounds like you’re handling things gracefully. And stilts! It’s so much fun to be tall!

    Comment by Caitlinator — January 24, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

  12. My sis Piu Piu just got an art residency for six months in Paris starting in April! You guys must meet up for coffee and croissants. I am so damned jealous. I’m planning to come back to europe in May – I miss decent food and sarcasm too much!

    Comment by mimi — January 24, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

  13. But did Tadpole like the place? She is the one that will be there.
    And did you like it?

    Comment by joeinvegas — January 24, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

  14. We did a tour of the local pre-school where I had planned on sending my Little One for 2 1/2 hours per day, and then the baby-sitter I had hired bailed out on me and I had to switch schools the day before it started. The new school is 6 hours – much more fun and easier for me to work around – and she loves it. But every now and then she asks about that school we went to see….isn’t she supposed to be going there? Sigh. Next year!

    Comment by Kathy — January 24, 2006 @ 10:59 pm

  15. i agree with swiss miss! while you yourself may not realise it, you quite often put him down here…and while its your blog and yours to say what you want, sometimes it does not come across very nicely….

    imagine how your child will miss him when you are gone….

    she is half frog too, not half rennes!

    other than that, cute story!

    Comment by goat — January 24, 2006 @ 11:48 pm

  16. she will always be half frog, but this is not always an advantage, especially in france!

    The seperation from our spouses (ex or otherwise) is nothing like that from our children. But this doesn’t make them necessarily nice people (the spouses, I mean – our children are always nice; at least until 12 years old); it is perhaps two completely different worlds/realities; tads and Mr frogs, and yours and Mr Frogs.

    Your comments of Mr Frog showed particular reserve under the circumstances. This is a blog after all…not a historical biography!

    bonjour, by the way.x

    Comment by roystona — January 25, 2006 @ 1:30 am

  17. I have to say I’d choose the school that TOLD me the poux were around – rather than find them just before bed on a Saturday night with no treatment to hand!
    BTW, the electronic devices for dealing with poux are very effective.
    Glad to hear the weekend went well. I’m also glad to read that Mr Frog knows you are going to move to Rennes. You’ve probably mentioned before that he knows, and I missed it, but I wasn’t sure.
    Take care – and did Tadpole get ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ for Christmas?

    Comment by Deirdre — January 25, 2006 @ 10:41 am

  18. I think I too missed the bit about when you announced you’re moving his daughter to Rennes – Has Mr Frog offered no resistance? Is he taking this lying down? Sorry, I meant is he being cooperative and understanding as is his wont?
    BTW Was I right about the Sheffield flirts or were they just too overawed?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — January 25, 2006 @ 11:08 am

  19. Er, as for my comment (#2) ‘tenseness’ would be what is commonly referred to as ‘tension’! Oops!

    Comment by redlady — January 25, 2006 @ 11:42 am

  20. Rennes is a thorny subject. He knows, understands my reasons, but can’t possibly feel happy about it, can he? Who would. And I feel cautiously happy about the future, but horribly guilty at the same time. Bittersweet.

    I’m currently having what can best be described a blogger’s crisis of conscience. He still reads this, regularly. I didn’t realise until yesterday. I have to think carefully about whether I can carry on writing about my personal life in this way, and possibly jeopardise our continuing truce/timid friendship. Or not.

    Life is never simple, is it?

    Comment by petite — January 25, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  21. Totally besides the point here, but how crazy that your baby is old enough to go to school!!

    Comment by Sarah — January 25, 2006 @ 2:11 pm

  22. Well, maternelle starts at age 3…

    Comment by petite — January 25, 2006 @ 2:45 pm

  23. Petite – You can’t write about the ex. You can’t write about work what’s left! My God your blog will turn into mine and you’ll start posting recipes :)

    Seriously – There are 2 things that I never post about.

    N°1:Work (don’t want to be Dooced)

    N°2: Anything posts about my family that could be misconstrued (save that for my girlfriends)

    So basically don’t write anything about anyone that you wouldn’t want written about you.

    Now if you can give us that recipe for Mince Pies that we have all been waiting for…..

    Comment by P in France — January 25, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  24. ” I have to think carefully about whether I can carry on writing about my personal life in this way”…..,

    Petite, I totally agree and on this matter it will not be the ‘excessive’ worrying to which you admit you are sometimes prone. Like most readers, I hugely admire evey aspect of your blog…. and I am averse to giving you (or anyone) advice of any kind. It is, after all, your ‘intellectual property’; we are simply priviliged to read it & comment if we wish.

    However, as I have hinted recently, it might be helpful to project forward and ‘predict’ how Tadpole might react to accessing information disclosed about herself on the blog? Kids pick up computer skills incredibly quickly these days and Tadpole will have an excellent role model in you! I’m sure her reaction will be different at different ages. As a toddler she will love the attention…. as a teenager she may curl up & die from embarrassment and perhaps be resentful?

    It’s also difficult to know when the boundaries may be passed in relation to commenting on Mr Frog and others, too. …….if Mr Frog still reads regularly, I wonder how he reacted to your ‘Intruder’ post, even though there was nothing in that post that was intentionally hurtful? You have also made some comments about him recently which (whether valid or not) he may well have not wished to be placed in a public domain? Not good for the long-term relationships necesary for joint access/care of Tadpole?

    ‘We’ should accept and respect whatever decision you reach, and whatever you decide, in future, to write but, for what its worth, I have always found that I enjoy your writings most when they are less directed towards ‘intimate’ disclosure but more related to all those whimsical aspects of life which most of us take for granted but for which you have a knack of creating an eloquent story ….. chance encounters on the metro and mince-pie making, for example. (No chance of any crumbs left over from those mince pies?)

    Comment by fella — January 25, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  25. As much as I don’t feel comfortable giving advice, realizing you have not solicited any, I must agree with fella’s conclusions. I have always been an admirer of both your soul-searching posts (especially those related to your history and feelings as an adopted child) as well as your lighter anecdotes. But I can’t help thinking that you might put what’s left of your relationship with Tadpole’s father at risk, willingly or not.

    It is up to you to assess how much of a risk that is, what consequences for Tadpole it might have, and decide what to do about it.

    Bon courage!

    Comment by ontario frog — January 25, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

  26. yes, your writings were more fun, and sorry to say more refined when you were with the frog…. i have read and enjoyed you for sometime now, but lately it has changed ( your blog) and its missing a bit of that ‘french finesse’ you once had..

    Comment by goat — January 25, 2006 @ 6:31 pm

  27. jeez…

    If one day I start a blog I think I’ll delete the “leave a comment” button.

    Comment by croque madame — January 25, 2006 @ 11:21 pm

  28. I must say, I’m not really surprised that Mr Frog has been reading here.

    I’m pretty sure I would if I were in that situation – I’ve always been terribly curious to find out what was happening with a partner after a breakup but “in my day”, people didn’t have blogs, so I didn’t get that opportunity! Probably a good thing, in the long run. It must be very painful for him to read some of the things in here…

    A very difficult situation.

    Comment by anxious — January 25, 2006 @ 11:53 pm

  29. Hmmm… it appears that only now have people caught on to my Stan Lee comment… but shucks… who am I?

    In other news, I’m glad you’re realizing you need to worry less. But don’t throw it all away! A little paranoia goes a long way, as Woody Allen knows.

    As for Mr. Frog, well, I don’t like to read about him when he’s portrayed as the lonely workaholic semi-bachelor. It seems dreadfully dark, and, as I don’t know him, I would hope that your choice in companions was completely faulty in your early 20s.

    Yes, thorny issue the school… you’re on your own with this one. But, you always were!

    Je t’embrasse très forte ma pouce!

    Comment by nardac — January 26, 2006 @ 12:20 am

  30. “was [not] completely faulty”
    damn… I’m going to sleep now before I embarass myself further.

    Comment by nardac — January 26, 2006 @ 12:21 am

  31. I still enjoy reading any and all of your posts. Having returned to the United States, your posts about French life and your life have kept me from getting too homesick about leaving France. And, as always, your writing style is beautiful.

    Comment by Alessandra — January 26, 2006 @ 5:29 am

  32. Whoa…I feel a bit guilty, but I think Goat hit the nail right on the head.

    Comment by swissmiss — January 26, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

  33. I’d frankly be quite surprised if a blog didn’t evolve, with its owner, over the course of 18 months, wouldn’t you?

    I’m not convinced I was ever guilty of having blessed with “French Finesse” though?!

    Comment by petite — January 26, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  34. When I used to read your Frog Period posts I always got the feeling that you weren’t enjoying life to the full, that you weren’t quite happy (like when you discussed the Christmas meal with the in-laws etc or waiting for him to come home from work). In a word they were wistful. However now the Lover Period posts are very much the opposite, bursting the brim with personality and life. Keep them coming Petite!!

    Lets be honest, the average 30 something girl is not some kind of prim Victorian miss. I think when we get to this age if we want to talk about something, whether it is sex, shopping or mince pies, we talk about it.

    Also how can anyone called “Goat” know much about finesse?

    Comment by Hazy — January 26, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

  35. I just don’t get it. Who are these people who read your blog and then presume to tell you what to write and even how to write it? “French finesse” – my arse. On your blog you write what you want and people choose to read it because it’s intriguing or resonates with them and they enjoy your writing style. If you don’t like it, write your own blog, put your own neck on the line, but don’t pontificate here.

    Comment by Jude — January 26, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

  36. Finesse is in the eye of the beholder.

    As far as I can see, your finesse (humor, touch of class, style… whatever) is of the British persuasion. That is unlikely to change much. And I would not want it any other way!

    Comment by ontario frog — January 26, 2006 @ 6:09 pm

  37. i would like to say something short and witty here, but I can’t cos I’m sick… just viva petite, viva honest writing, viva evolution … what the bloody hell’s the point of a blog if not honesty?

    Comment by vitriolica — January 26, 2006 @ 6:13 pm

  38. I am new to your blog, having come across it a couple of days ago. I too am an English ex pat, however i live in Germany. It’s totally addictive, after reading the last few most recent posts, i have subsequently gone back and read all the archives. and yes i do have too much free time. All i can say is keep writing and please more audia of tadpole.

    Comment by lydia — January 26, 2006 @ 6:24 pm

  39. my comments were made in no bad way! thats why i think you have a comment blog, for interaction non?

    as for my name, well hazy, yours doesnt exactly conjure up images of class either!

    Comment by goat — January 26, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

  40. To be honest, Goat, “finesse” does not translate as “class” in French.

    Comment by Hazy — January 26, 2006 @ 10:15 pm

  41. Actually, rather than bickering, what I’d like to know Petite is if Tadpole got to make her stilts!! And if she did, how’s the parquet?

    Comment by Hazy — January 26, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  42. Honesty is overrated when it is designed for consumption by a public that has no means to verify it. You might be deranged yet fantastic writer and I wouldn’t be able to tell honesty from falsehood.

    It seems people are interested in veracity only because they think it’s the only way to legitimate the writing. That’s crap. Sometimes the most interesting parts of the story are the parts made up.

    If I was truly intersted in the veracity of your blog, you’d have to call me a full-fledged voyeur. So, yes, I’m calling some of your cheerleading squad a bunch of loud-mouthed peeping toms that never spare a moment to lynch a nay-sayer. I think Petite’s wise and mature enough to answer for herself. Anyways, it was just his bloody opinion and I didn’t think it was that offensive.

    And, for the others, blog owners are also subject to the reviews of their readers, whether the writer concurs or not. You can’t please everyone all the time, and sometimes, criticism is useful. Maybe it even affirms why we do the things we do.

    Comment by nardac — January 27, 2006 @ 12:46 am

  43. I stumbled across your web site and what a great addictive read it is! I’m the opposite to you I guess (sorta) – I’m French living in Oz with 2 cats and a French Kangourette! Looking forward to the next post!

    Comment by Pascal — January 27, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

  44. You know, Steven Spielberg was just shot down in flames in some cirlces for his latest movie called ‘Munich’ … I read a der Spiegel interview with him and read of his reasons, his beliefs etc … and I envied him his ability to find a middle ground in the complicated situation that is Palestine and Israel. But then to go on and dare to make a movie, knowing that he was going to give a lot of small-minded people on either side of the divide the idea they could be outraged by his take on the situation … instead of evolving and being challeged to find out why their response is so powerful.

    Maybe we should ask ourselves what motivates us to have strong opinions on Petite’s life one way or the other … maybe we’d find it a little useful, and more honest, if we wondered more about that?

    Hmmm, is that all I wanted to say?
    Yes, I believe so. :)

    Comment by Di — January 27, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

  45. Comments are what make the blogging world go ’round.

    But at the same time, I have to say that it’s hard not to take some of them personally. When I’m feeling low (and my life right now is a series of dizzying highs and pretty desolate lows, which my writing may or may not reflect) a few scathing comments can be tough to deal with. Happily, the positive ones, like the people who write to say they have just read all 150,000+ words of this blog and loved it, usually balance things out.

    I wonder sometimes how healthy it is doing this at all. AM I seeking validation from strangers about how I live my life? That can’t be healthy.

    All I know is that I’ve thought seriously about stopping, and have come to the conclusion it would feel like losing a limb. I am blogging less, but I don’t want to stop.

    And I won’t be turning off the comments any time soon either.

    Comment by petite — January 27, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  46. Dear Petite, I love your blog and think you’re such a good writer. I want to agree with Fella though that you (unfortunately) need to careful what you write about Tadpole as she gets older. She is sure to read it a lot earlier than you think. People figure out you have a blog….I WISH I could write about a lot of stuff in mine but I just can’t if I don’t want it to intrude into my life too much.

    [Warning, practical advice:] About the lice, Antipo Déesse is absolutely right that you will not be able to avoid them in any school in France, so don’t choose the school that way! My kids spent years getting lice every couple of months. Luckily there’s not much stigma in France! The secret to prevention if there is a lice infestation at school is to comb Tadpole’s hair (AND yours!) with a finetooth comb all over her scalp before she goes to bed and when she wakes up. Those little electronic combs are great but they’re expensive and tend to stop working before long. Don’t use that nasty chemical stuff on her head unless you really have to. Get a metal comb with *long* teeth and that will do the job. Ugh….It makes me itch just thinking about it!

    Comment by Sedulia — January 27, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  47. Petite, what you have created is truly unique and I hope you do continue with the blog. It’s not surprising that you have such highs and lows. You weave them into wonderfully light & humourous words in your posts but the realities of all all that you are dealing with must be gut-wrenching at times!

    Nor do I think it’s any kind of ‘massage’ to affirm that your writings do engender very real feelings of ‘care’ and ‘affection’ for you (& yours)from people who may never encounter you in real life… only out there in cyberspace. That’s great!! Why not!!

    I notice that a number of other respondents who clearly admire your blog also worry a little about how Tadpole might, in the future, feel about her ‘privacy’. But just as much, and I expect you may already be ahead of me in this, the very worst thing that any child ever wants to kow about is that his/her parents have a sex-life! Oh! the humiliation and shame of knowing that mum and dad ‘do it’… and at their age,.. and that their friends might find out!..(never mind that if they didn’t do it they wouldn’t then have had any need to worry about it at all!) Imagine then how Tadpole might feel, at a certain age, to know that mum discusses fairly intimate details on her blog site. Now I know that out there are plenty of readers who take a different view and who urge you to write whatever you will, and to hell with the consequences……..

    but,I am guessing that you will gradually fine-tune the subject matters of your posts… not because I or anyone else wants you to do so but because you yourself will so determine. And I’m dammed sure that your future posts will be just as fantastic as they always have been up until now.

    Comment by fella — January 27, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

  48. 150,000+ words? By my reckoning that’s almost two books! People have probably gone about this before, but I’m convinced that your anecdotes about life in France (leaving aside the pros and cons of writing about more personal issues) would make a great book. There’s a seemingly endless market for the recollections of expats abroad, and most of the writing is absolute s****, so yours would make a refreshing change. I’m sure that your writing could become lucrative as well as cathartic – it might provide a source of income when you move to Rennes. Anyone out there got contacts in publishing?…

    Comment by old school friend — January 27, 2006 @ 7:23 pm

  49. Sorry, that obviously should have read “gone ON about this before” – duh…

    Comment by old school friend — January 27, 2006 @ 7:27 pm

  50. We’ll see. I won’t say I haven’t thought about using some of it in some way. Time is my enemy right now, but who knows? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Comment by petite — January 27, 2006 @ 8:20 pm

  51. Petite, I imagine that when (all being well) you move to Rennes, the content of your posts will probably naturally change with your new environment, your new goals and your new family, as it were. Although living so close to Mr Frog was obviously the most practical solution for you after your break-up and good for Tadpole, perhaps it has made it a little harder for you and him to completely move on, free of guilt and free of remorse.

    You might find too, that the move will be very positive for your relationship with Mr Frog with enough distance between you to rid your friendship of the awkwardness. With this distance, I would also imagine that Mr Frog might not feature so often, he may not even read it so often as his life begins to move on.

    Obviously, I have no real idea what I’m talking about as I don’t know either of you, but I’m just offering my 2 cents based on what I take from your writing…but I think things can only get better for you from here. The move might be very hard at first (any transition period is always hard) but ultimately, you are doing what you feel is best for you and Tadpole and that can only be a positive thing. I’m sure all your readers will be looking forward to reading about this new phase in your life.


    Comment by redlady — January 27, 2006 @ 8:34 pm

  52. u have undertaken lots of effort to write this. This is simply great mate, keep the good work going!!

    Comment by rachel — February 2, 2006 @ 10:37 am

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