February 26, 2015

M + C + R

The culture frays continue at our house. I step back to analyze our different approaches in parenting. We could essentially typify our two styles of dealing with conflict as: distraction versus confrontation. (Especially with the 3 year old). "Colette, check this out,” redirecting focus, attention - my approach.

Xavier's mode is generally head-on. From his perspective, she is asking for boundaries, authority and it doesn't matter how much the conflict stains the moment. I'm convinced that life with a 3-year old could be constant strife if we didn’t actively draw her attention away from the snags in life that grip her. Xavier is proud of his authority - lets it swell and take space. In Xavier land (France?), telling a fellow-parent they have authority is a sign of admiration (I will say that culturally, having control of your child’s behavior is worth more in France than in the US).

In my world (not sure if that is "America"), I don't see having authority as the chief sign of a parent who has it together. I am much more concerned about emotional connection with the girls, understanding their feelings and hopefully helping them detect what is going on for them. Hopefully the two sides balance each other out.

As she grows up, Marguerite is really a sweet mix. She is joyful, a giggle accenting most of her interactions. She is patient with her two little sisters - she scoops Romy up and follows her baby pace. Marguerite didn't speak English well until recently and now, it is like the minute she walks in the door, she switches to the American Marguerite and doesn't turn back until she boards the plane (independent jet setter) back to Paris.

Romy is light, airy – so cheerful. She now sees Colette coming and immediately surrenders whatever she is playing with and turns to find a new option. No conflict. No interest in provoking the big beast sister. Probably best for now. She is independent and very rarely needy. We put her in bed at night, sing a song and give her a kiss – she coos and doesn’t request a reappearance until about 11 hours later. I sometimes wonder if we are doing something wrong; can such smooth sailing really be so?

Colette requires navigating choppier waters. She is a true actor – we think, like her Aunt Marie, theater and drama must be in her future. When we are out and about and she wants to protest something, she will often fold over slowly, falling to the ground body part by body part – almost melting, until she is a puddle, flat on the ground. Hard to move melted water.

Some great Colette quotes lately:

"When nobody is here we be alone" (very sad, drooping shoulders)

"Ready or not, here are I" (while playing hide and seek)

"I like to see people's poo, mama" (looking at me very seriously, wanting to connect and tell me something that was really interesting to her)

"Is that China over there?" (at Rockefeller Center - looking toward the building I work in on Park Avenue)

We took her to see her first film in a movie theater. Paddington. After the first trailer for some stupid mall cop kids movie, Colette sat in her seat sort of stunned. She did not understand the concept of a preview and it was unclear why it had nothing to do with the bear she was expecting to see.

"Wow. That was strange."

Her little voice punctuated the chamber of the silent theater. Everyone laughed.

She is such a mime. We had someone over from the bank recently who was named Cheryl. As Cheryl was leaving, Xavier and I shook her hand. We both said, “Thank you very much, Cheryl.”

Colette cut in and said, “Cheryl, can I shake your hand?” She did and tilted her head just so while looking into her eyes and repeating, “Thank you so much, Cheryl.” She added: “Now, when you go outside, please be careful on the sidewalk and don’t fall.” Cheryl was charmed by Colette’s concern for her safety.

The French/English situation just gets funnier and funnier. She mixes the two, she listens to Xavier’s constant flow in French, but tells us outright she really prefers English as a language.

"Only five a la fois (at a time) Romy," she instructs, while passing Romy little crackers.
"I need to mouche" (blow my nose).
"I want to luge" (sled).
"It is neige-ing" (snow).

While reading stories at night she asks if groups of characters in the book are speaking in English or en francais to each other. She also wants to categorize anyone who is coming over before they arrive as English or French speakers.

While eating her dinner the other night, Colette started playing with her straw in the glass of water, so Xavier decided to help her concentrate:

Toi tu t’occupes de ton eau et moi je m’occupe de ton riz.” (You take care of the water and I’ll take care of the rice – shoveling spoonfuls in her mouth).

“OK papa. You coupe du riz and I will coupe the water.” (Mixing the two languages and confusing verbs in French).

February 21, 2015


Red tulips against the soft bleached world outside. Snow, snow, snow.

February 11, 2015

Shadows at story time.

During story time with the girls last night, Xavier started digging around a closet - clatter and clank. He pulled out a white sheet and spot lit it from behind with an antiquated desk lamp. I wondered what he was up to and then he turned off the lights and pulled out some magical black figures and began a whole new sort of story-time with shadow puppets. Colette and Marguerite were hypnotized. His story involved a sleepwalker (somnambule) named Madame Gugglebum. She couldn't quite locate her bed and needed some help from the moon and other fellows along the way home. Enchanted, the girls took over and Marguerite's character, Madame Chewing-Gum also had sleep issues. Colette's cast of characters were crawling all over each other, swarming the scene. The gem of the evening was the posthumous appearance by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his plane. Sound effects nearing perfection.

February 8, 2015

A Sunday in February.

The day started out pretty well. Mainly, Marguerite is back from Paris. Matching outfits, for sisters who sometimes live an ocean apart. Lounging about, playing games and hide and seek. Leaping, flying - Marguerite is in top form and lanky and lankier, just like her papa. And then an outing - to paint ceramic miniatures. Even with the same outfit, it is fair to say their painting styles - and a few other things - were pretty different.

Flying, falling.

Twin doors too.

It all ended with an evening of fun - antics for all. Romy too. Quite a troupe.

February 2, 2015

Our house.

Xavier has a thing for our house. If Colette doesn't know where Papa is, she asks, "Is he brigolage-ing?" Probably so, Colette. He recently finished this bathroom, which is on the 3rd floor, and it was the last bathroom to be done. I love the tiles on the floor and am going to start doing yoga up here - the floor space is big! The truth is, our house is a major project - "evergreen" - as Xavier likes to say - and he is constantly tuning things up, maintaining, improving. Thanks to him and his constancy the house is taking on a life of its own. When we unlock the front door, it envelops us and buffers us, separating our family from the city externally. I've realized with children that having a refuge from a force like New York City is really essential. I have never been a home body. Xavier is much more than I am. Some big fights have circled around the competing priorities of investing money in a house (Xavier) - or investing in travel (me!), but by breathing life into the house, I've learned to roost with the babies and give thanks for our place.

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