Frenchitude Lesson #50: Hating Aspects of Parenthood Doesn’t Mean You Hate Your Children

Sometimes I wonder if God isn’t some evil scientist.

This is because there are days when I would swear upon a Bible that my children have been genetically engineered to drive me into a mental institution.

This is especially the case during the toddler years. I know, I know…I’m neglecting those teenager years, but for right now I am putting adolescence firmly in the mental box labeled “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Please indulge my need to maintain my blissful ignorance for as long as possible.

Case in point. Yesterday morning Franck was away on a business trip. I had to get the bevy up, dressed, fed, and out the door to school and daycare all before I had actually woken up (just for the record, this happens around 1:00pm most days).

While making breakfasts I carefully cut up Clem’s banana into small pieces so that I wouldn’t have to deal with a choking episode alone. You may remember that I have now officially developed a full-fledged choking paranoia due to several near-death experiences with my girls.

So does Clem pick up my carefully cut up pieces and chew them nicely?

Oh no, that would be far too easy.

Instead she shoves the entire contents of the bowl (equivalent to an entire banana) into her tiny mouth and then tries to swallow it. Without chewing. After all, chewing is so boring! What a waste of time. Who needs it?

Luckily Charlotte is more awake than I am, so I hear her yell while I am in the middle of packing lunch bags (and let me just say – lunches – ugh! the French cafeteria system is SO much better for Moms) “MOM, CLEM IS CHOKING!”

My heart stops yet I somehow manage to run to the table, grab a banana-stuffed, choking, rapidly oxygen deprived child, turn her upside down, do baby Heimlich, plus fish out banana with my finger. Finally I am able to clear her airway. The sound of her cough, and then her cry, is akin to the bells of paradise.

It takes a good minute or so for my heart to start back up again, but do I have time to collapse somewhere and recover? No. I still have three girls to get out the door.

I have to say that as far as parenting moments go, the whole choking thing is one aspect I unequivocally, completely, totally hate. Same goes for cleaning up barf, and your child telling you that they have lost yet another item of their brand new (and very expensive) school uniform.

In France parents are very realistic -some would say blunt -about hating, yes, hating, certain aspects of parenting.

One of my French friends whose son has recently crossed over into teenagerhood unapologetically told me, “I hate how he smells now and oh-my-God are teenage boys ever hideous looking! Their noses are huge and they have zits everywhere. Plus he is always getting in trouble and doesn’t listen to a thing I say anymore. So far I am just hating this stage.”

I somehow don’t feel as free here in Canada to fess up to the fact that although I love my children, there are moments of parenting that as far as I can tell, have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Well…except along the lines of my beloved “You can’t scare me – I have kids” fridge magnet.

North American society seems particularly in love with platitudes. I often hear parents here bang on about how they “love every minute of it.”

And I feel like saying, “Really? Do you really love every minute of it? Do you truly love that shaky, adrenaline-sick feeling that overcomes you just after you have fished a foreign object from your child’s windpipe or just barely whipped them out of the way of an oncoming vehicle?”

Yet I don’t say that here, because I find that it is hugely frowned upon as a very unpolitically correct thing to say. The people love their platitudes, damn it, and if you question them you must be a Bad Parent. Worse yet, a Bad Person.

Society at large here seems to be so black and white about parenting that when we admit that we hate certain aspects of it, it is somehow inferred that we hate our children too.

For their part, the French have always been better at accepting that aside from little bits of black and white, life is mainly made up of grey areas (just watch pretty much any French film like Cedric Klapish’s “Paris’ for confirmation of this).

The French don’t go in for platitudes, or indeed anything that oversimplifies this crazy, up and down roller coaster that is the human experience. To oversimplify it is to do it a disservice.

They believe that it is precisely those paradoxes – like hating aspects of parenting yet still loving your child – that make parenting so rich and so human.

And you know what? So do I.