I wanted to take a few minutes today to record in this blog how impressed and relieved I have felt with the way our local school handled the aftermath of the Paris Attacks.
I was worried about what Super PG might pick up on at school on Monday, after such a painful and appalling weekend, as he is such a sensitive little boy.
I know because he gets it from me.
I get crushed easily, lack self-confidence and while I love my children ferociously, I also need quiet time, making me a complicated fusion of introvert and extrovert – an ambivert, of sorts. I hate speaking out in a group, just like Super PG, but love one-on-one meetings and a good party.
I find Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution a welcome and insightful resource, especially now there’s the parenting section. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to help me parent with less guilt and understand how to be a better mum (see where the “wannabe supermaman” name comes from…I’m always going to be a wannabe!).
Super PG can’t watch programmes on the television that some other children his age watch, or films such as Frozen (La Reine des Neiges in French) or Planes or How to Train Your Dragon (he loves it, but can only watch certain bits or it frightens him) or Cars. For the latter he watches the short episodes in Mater’s Tall Tales, and even then there’s some we avoid because he tells us they are scary. We stick to programmes like Caillou, Daniel Tiger, Peppa Pig (“Daddy Coco”), Robocar Poli and Puffin Rock, they’re all favourites.
For over a year – from around when he was 18 months old to a couple of months before he was three – I had to sit with him until he fell asleep each night, holding his hand, because either he wouldn’t go to sleep without me there, or he was frightened of the “nounours”. In English this word simply means teddy bear – pretty innocent – but for us and him it has come to mean something frightening, something that shows up uninvited, especially when it is dark and when he’s in his bedroom.
We tried various strategies, including telling Super PG the “nounours” didn’t have permission to be here in the house, that when he said “go away” it had to leave (this worked often, temporarily) and telling him to flush it down the toilet. This is what finally worked (and some books have also helped, too).
But he’s still scared of the dark and likes to have a dimmed light on at night, although he does now go to sleep by himself. I’m especially proud of him for this as it’s a huge step forward, and he doesn’t wake from nightmares during the night any more like he used to.
Super H and I keep up with the news mostly through our iPhones. We only watch adult television after Super PG has gone to bed and when he is around the only thing it is used for really is Spotify (we have our family computer hooked up to the TV too), Netflix, YouTube, photo browsing and children’s programmes. It’s never just on in the background.
We were reading about the events of the Paris Attacks as they unfolded late on Friday night in bed and couldn’t sleep for the first half of the early hours of Saturday morning. Super H is Parisian, it’s where he grew up, where his father was a gendarme and where his brother and partner still live now. He’s been to the Bataclan, several times. “It’s so small there,” he told me with incredulity, imagining the scene and all the people – I could see it playing out in his eyes.
We were so relieved to find out that our family and friends were safe, but, like most people, we were horrified and shocked to the core by the brutality of these attacks and numb from imagining the pain and suffering the victims and their families and friends have been forced to experience.
We’re still blown away, but I think we’ve done pretty well at keeping it out of sight and earshot of Super PG. If he was older then we would invite discussion – I did some research about this and posted it on the Wannabe Supermaman Facebook page – but we concluded that he’s way too young. He doesn’t even know what a gun is or that people hurt each other. He takes things to heart.
I talked to the teacher yesterday morning about how Super PG knew nothing about what had happened on Friday. She had explained that she was going to try to find out from the class, gently, what they knew to avoid things coming out in the playground when they’re by themselves. The minute’s silence at midday was being observed, but not for the two younger classes, the 3-5 year olds. I was really pleased about that. I felt it would confuse him right now and he would unnecessarily feel the sadness.
When I chatted to her this morning she explained how none of the children said anything about the Attacks yesterday, even though she gave them the opportunity to talk about things that had happened over the weekend. It seemed that the other parents had taken the same decision as us, she said.
I felt relieved at that moment, and also when I took out the letter from the headmaster to all the parents at the school, informing us of the closures, how long school trips were postponed for and describing the support that was there for the pupils.
It’s an important letter, professional and informative, but empathetic, authoritative and supportive. I’d like to share some of it with you, so you can see how well the school reacted.
Here is an excerpt:
Here’s the English translation:
“The terrorist attacks that hit Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis on Friday 13 November have once again affected the heart of our Republic and we are all in shock. The President has announced a state of emergency and three days of national mourning. All my thoughts are with the victims of these appalling events and their loved ones.
As parents, be assured that the teaching and education staff are at your side during these painful times, ready to help and inform you. Psychological units are being sent into schools, colleges and higher education establishments in the Ile-de-France, where the pupils, their families and staff are particularly affected, but elsewhere also if requested by the school.
The teachers are aware of the situation and sensitive to it across all subjects.
Therefore, don’t hesitate to talk to them on Monday morning to say, for example, if you’ve talked about the events to your children, about how they feel and to let us know any information you think will be useful. This is essential for enabling the teachers to approach the subject with your children in the best way possible and for establishing beneficial communication.”
“Paris will get through this,” my brother-in-law said. I know he’s right. The French people are deeply sad, but reacting with such dignity and courage, and producing such extraordinarily brave humour (see this on Europe 1 by Nicolas Canteloup), poignant cartoons (see here, here and here, for example) and spectacular journalism that you see such vicious attempts to take freedom away will never work. The French are too ballsy for that!
You only have to check out the hashtag #jesuisenterrasse to see the evidence of people returning to normal life – not afraid.
In time Super PG will learn, too, what a strong, proud and incredibly resilient country he is part of, but also of the sad and tragic events that made us see, so very clearly, how we know this to be true.
Thoughts and heart constantly with all those affected by Friday’s events.
Thank you for reading.