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little earthquakes.



 Illustration source: Melissa M

Everyday I hop on the metro to go to work, I can honestly say that I have no idea what the day will bring me. Perhaps this is the "excitement and adventure" that is working with children, but these little guys keep me on my toes where I can never predict what they will say, or worse, do. 

At work, the one thing I really do try to avoid is going to the bathroom. It sounds ridiculous, I know. It just seems like every time I leave them to their own devices for even the hottest second, something always happens where I hear crying or some kind of commotion through the door, and can't push my pee out fast enough. Previous episodes have included an iPad being launched from a top bunk and smashing onto a hardwood floor, Franck punching Thomas in the face, or one of them (no names) standing naked in his bedroom, smearing his own feces on the curtains. (Why the curtains? Does this strike anyone else as an odd choice for placement? It was almost poetic.)

That last event was when I made a vow to eschew any personal after-school bathroom activities. Holding off on drinking water and tea in exchange for feces-free curtains is a decision I have yet to look back on. I have been lucky thus far not needing the bathroom, as my lady friend appeared to follow suit arriving on weekends....until last Tuesday. So, with that kind of set-up, you know this story is going into a very dark place. I forewarned you, this will not be an I love Paris in the springtime post.

I knew that I would be in the bathroom a drop longer than usual, therefore I separated the mini monsters to opposite sides of the table to work on their English homework (serious stuff here: coloring paper cookies for a nail-biting round of Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?) before heading off to manage my business. With an assortment of phrases instructing them to stay put ("Soyez sage, Restez ici, Bougez pas,"), I was confident that my brief absence would be rid of incidents.

There I was, sitting in the miniscule bathroom, so small that I could touch the walls boxing me in without having to stretch my arms out. I learned toward the door expecting to hear hysteria but all was quiet on cookie mountain. Parfait. Finishing up, I sat up and let out a small yelp when I realized that I had not inserted my tampon all the way. (I hate when that happens.) At first I did that dance to maneuver it in place, which never works, before poking it up.

There I was, my pants around my ankle, standing in grand plié, my face scrunched up in the discomfort of having my fingers up my crotch, while the other hand held onto the wall for balance. 

And that, was when I looked up to see that Franck had opened the door, catching me literally red-handed. Of course he did. After two years, how did I not call that?

Upon absorbing this horrific scene, he let out his best "Home Alone" scream, slammed the door in my face and ran off. Merde, merde, merde!!!

That day I was wearing my vintage sailor pants and had to button all 15 buttons before addressing this, which only adding to the tension as he wailed on in the living room.

"She's naked!!" I heard him cry to Thomas, "She's in their almost à poil being bizarre! Qu'est-ce qu'elle fait?

But really, I did not know what to do, I'm not versed in - at least not yet - handling emotional trauma of a five-year-old. Was I supposed to punish him? And if so, for what? Opening the door? Not listening when I told him to stay put? And was I going to have to pay for his therapy sessions? The horror!

Then the second part of this already humiliating experience dawned on me: I would have to explain all of this to his father that night. I couldn't let this one slide in the hopes that Franck would not relay what he saw to his family. They had to hear it from me. 

At the behest of Aurélien, whom I called for advice, I spared the father all of the gruesome details and placed emphasis that Franck was very shaken up.

"That was his response when seeing you without pants on?" the father joked, "He cried? Oh là."

I was not at all amused. And it showed.

I am not one to storm out of situations, but my humiliation was mounting by the second. I wished them all a curt bonne soirée before leaving to meet Aurel for a much-needed happy hour cocktail at Chez Vous

I sometimes can't believe these are snippets of life in my 30s. I always imagined I would be settled into an actual career by now, but I also never predicted I would be married (still so weird) and living in Paris. Take the good with the not so great, eh? These almost two-years working with these kids have been quite an experience, unwittingly preparing me for the day I have my own, however, I am looking forward to the end of my final year in childcare. Mon dieu.

16 comments:

  1. well for one thing...he's 5...he just knows you were naked (sort of)..all the rest means not much to a 5 year old...and while it was pretty nerve wracking it's not the end of the world...if they were your actual kids they would have seen you really naked and on the toilet plenty of times...it's just real life.

    the real issue is "what the hell is wrong with those kids?" can 't they sit still for one second?...they need to be taught that the bathroom is "private time"...they are the ones that need the lesson..you weren't doing anything wrong and the very fact that you have to rush like a maniac thru normal bathroom functions is just not right.

    be firm with these little brats...smearing feces on the curtains?? what are they IRA prisoners from the '70's?...good lord...their parents should be the ones who are mortified....


    okay rant over....

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    1. Totally agree with Debs, there. Boundaries, people, boundaries!

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    2. @Deb - Thanks for assuring me that he will not be scarred for life. I once walked into my grandparents room and saw my grandfather coming out of the shower completely naked and was horrified. 25 years later I still remember...ahhhh!

      Hahaha, I don't know what's wrong with these kids. One of them is extremely hyperactive and the other is just responding to him. Since the "incident" I can now leave them for a few minutes to do my business. I guess something big like this had to happen.

      IRA prisoners from the 70s!!!!

      You know I always love your rants. Thank you!

      @Duchesse - I will be sure to tell them to respect my boundaries today. I'll let you know how they respond. : ) !

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  2. OMG, EEEK! I think I'd have yelled just that too o.O

    I used to umpire at a lot of rowing regattas, often finding myself somewhere up a river bank with no access to any facilities for hours (and sometimes even worse, in the middle of a lake!) Very occasionally nature demanded that even though I'd tried my best to fully dehydrate beforehand, I was going to have to go. Behind a bush/tree or whatever. I got caught twice by random passers by (thankfully in 2 completely different towns) both times it was kids with parents, and really there was nothing I could say or do other than look horrified!

    I could say something about the shit on the curtains, but I have to admit to being the three year old who pooped in the middle of the (tiled) bathroom floor just to see what her mum would do.

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  3. You poor woman! Good grief!

    And I think most of us have those moments where we think, "I can't believe this is my life," sometimes for positive and sometimes for negative reasons. Life is full of surprises.

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    1. Full of surprises, indeed. Working with these guys (aside from these moments) really isn't bad. They do make me laugh, but yeah, I think it's time to advance from this after the school year. I have definitely learned a lot about French children, that's for sure!

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  4. Typical French reponse from the Dad... At least he wasn't horrified thinking you'd ruined his child's innocence or anything. They need to get a lock and kids that aren't such little shits, literally!

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    1. I know right!! I was glad I didn't get blamed like I did when they were lifting my skirt up that one time!

      None of the bathrooms have locks. One of the houses I work at, the door doesn't even close! Yep, this will be my last year.

      I don't know why the comments are in moderation mode, I'll have to see what's going on in "the back". Thanks for letting me know!

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  5. "There I was, my pants around my ankle, standing in grand plié, my face scrunched up in the discomfort of having my fingers up my crotch, while the other hand held onto the wall for balance."

    I believe that sentence beats "He looked at me as if I had asked him to go out there and pull my tampon out with his teeth in front of everyone". I didn't think anything ever would;)

    Why do these things even happen to you?;))

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    1. Ahahaha! Wow, I am pretty crass! I forgot I wrote that! Thanks for the reminder. : P

      I think working with children would make anyone susceptible to these kinds of experiences, I just happen to have an extra rowdy bunch. He has mentioned it a few times since like "Tu te souviens quand...." Yes, Franck, je me souviens!

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  6. Oh sweet Jesus! This is one of those things that could only happen to you (or possibly me) xx

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    1. Oh sweet Jesus is right! SL, I was mortified!

      I'm still getting flashbacks from the stories you told me when we met..."he was hiding in the castle..." oh la la!

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  7. Ahhhhhhhh! That is horrifying - seriously, are they wild animals?!? It's heroic that you have managed to put up with them for so long. At least the dad was cool (ish?) about it. I can only imagine how some of the helicopter parents in the States would react!

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  8. I had not thought before how difficult it must be for child carers to respond to the normal bodily functions. As a parent /grandparent I just use the loo and leave the door open or take them with me onto the cubicle if I am out, until they are old enough to be left for a few minutes alone. But I guess for a carer it is a bit inappropriate. As Debbie says, if they were your own kids they would be used to seeing you naked or on the toilet.....surely these kids must see their own parents naked or on the toilet ! Otherwise how does the parent ever have a shower/pee? So I don't think Franck will be scarred at all. I think he is just winding you up!

    Am I the only one who finds the idea of a five year old smearing faeces on curtains a bit disturbing?. A one/two year old maybe, but at five????



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  9. Oh goodness that's a lot to deal with! Sounds like you're definitely ready to leave! What are your plans after teaching?
    I'm still teaching French adults (thankfully I don't have to deal with poop and peek-a-boos!) but I wonder what else is out there. I never thought I'd be doing what I'm doing either...and sorta' scared thinking about what I'll be doing in the next 5+ years! There's not so much available for an artist in Grenoble...or maybe there is.

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  10. Oh. Mon. Dieu. (to say the least) The fact that you could even begin to explain that one to a parent without melting through the floor is incredibly impressive in my book. Well done!

    I'll never forget the horror that we all experienced upon moving to Prague and learning that applicators just don't exist in Euroland. As my friend Katie so eloquently put it, "I love the cafe culture here but I could really do without fisting myself every month."

    TMI, perhaps, but still makes me laugh five years later. Cultural experiences! :)

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