Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One Month Left

We leave Paris on July 7; the movers come on July 3.  Every day we grow increasingly nostalgic about our Parisian experience, and every day I get a tad more anxious about all of the unknowns ahead of us.

We are moving "home."  Home in that it is our home country, the place in which we have both spent our entire lives living, with the exception of study-abroad during university and these past two years.  Home in that we will be in the same time zone as our family.  Home in that English will be the language of business, and I won't feel like a tongue-tied moron in the vast majority of my daily interactions.

On another level, though, it's not home at all.  New York is a new city for both of us, but even more, I've realized that I don't know how to live my current life in the US.  When we moved to Paris, Baby Oil was just six months old.  In the past two years, I have learned how to parent (or at least, how to parent in the infant and toddler phases).  I am learning now how to parent two children at once.  I know when the park is crowded, what to wear to the playground, how to take kids on the bus and the metro, and how to conduct my daily stay-at-home-mom life here in Paris.

I have absolutely no idea how to do that in New York.  All of the cultural norms around parenting that I've absorbed are informed by expats in France and the French themselves.    I know when behavior is too rowdy (in the park, essentially never), I know how far away it is acceptable to sit from your child in the playground (really, really far - the moms sitting closer are always expats), I know which boulangeries give a free piece of baguette to your child when you buy something (the one on Rue de Rocher).  But in the US, there will be other cultural norms.  And as much as it is my home country, I am a foreigner in the world of American parenting.

The classes are what put me over the top.  There are so many classes for kids in America!  Just in Brooklyn, it seems you could skip preschool altogether and just escort your 2- or 3-year-old from yoga to art to music to dance to science class.  If your child doesn't take Sustainable Art (this class is actually offered at the Park Slope YMCA - the brochure explains that your child will "learn to make art that cares about the environment"), will he be shunned as an outsider? 

Baby Oil will have to wait until he is 3 to be old enough for the Action Heros - Boys Only dance class offered at one Park Slope dance studio but he can start combined yoga-and-swim classes immediately at the Y.  Due to conflicts with his preschool schedule, we won't be able to enroll in the Brooklyn Design Lab's Paint Studio in which "we delve into alternative painting techniques and experiment with tools and materials of our own creation."  I wasn't aware alternative painting techniques for 2-year-olds even existed.  Classes for toddlers simply don't exist in France.  The expectation is that your child is at creche, or home with the nanny. Or, in the case of many expat kids, spending long afternoons at the park with a frazzled, lonely mommy eavesdropping on anyone who doesn't look like a nanny in hopes of making a new friend. 

It is quite possible that Brooklyn, or maybe all of New York City, is going to be a parenting experience unto itself. I'm beyond excited at the thought of actually having places to take my kids when the weather is crummy, but I am also intimidated at all that I don't know about being a NYC parent.  One month left - Mr. Oil has taken to buying caramel au beurre sale in a jar and drizzling it over ice cream, in between trying to sample all of the multitude of French yogurt options available in our local grocery store.  I'm doing my part to buy at least one fresh baguette every day.  I recently tried to tell Baby Oil that there are no baguettes in New York.  His response?  "No baguettes in New York.  Baguettes in the boulangerie!"  Poor kid is in for some serious culture shock.