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My family is planning
a trip to Paris and while I'm beyond excited, I'm a little bit nervous.
Especially after reading your book and seeing the differences between French
and American kids. I have two VERY American little boys, ages 5 and 9. How to
prepare for this trip so everyone in France isn't staring in shock when the
little one yells, "I've got to poop!" at the top of the Eiffel tower? Or the older one shrieks, "Gross!!!!" at a bistro? I've got three
Congratulations. You currently hold the
championship belt for the question that made me laugh the most water out of my
nose. It’s a virtual belt, FYI.
Three weeks! I’m feeling like one of those pitiful
contestants on Project Runway who has nothing but holey scraps when Tim Gunn
says, “Designers, you have one hour to finish everything.” Like, three weeks to transform a couple of
kids = one hour to “FINISH EVERYTHING” on Project Runway. It’s not a lot of
Then again, you probably don’t want to completely
change your children. You just don’t want to be sneered at. Totally
understandable. Let me start by saying that should your family end up as
objects of contempt on the big Parisian vacay, don’t take it too personally. I’ve
never managed to escape from a trip to France without some kind of ridicule.
I suggest working with your kids on lowering their voices.
That being said, there is a lot you can
do to mitigate the derision. To lead off, I suggest working with your kids on
lowering their voices. This will make a huge difference in perception. For the most part, French children don’t
command as much airtime, nor do they seem to reach the same decibel level, as
kids I’ve seen here. It’s the spectacle of American tourists that most often
attracts condescension. Remind your boys
over and over that you are entering a different culture with different customs,
and that it’s important to respect French practices. Feed them this line: “You
are going to be guests in another country, and you must do your best to adapt
to its practices.” Maybe it won’t
totally sink in, but my 9-year-old totally goes for that kind of thing.
Speaking of 9-year-olds, yours will
lose you guys a lot of points if he shouts “gross!” in a bistro (although they
might just think he’s yelling “fat!” which would be confusing). Regardless, if you don’t have time to instill
genuine culinary reverence, you’d do well to convince your dudes to feign a
little regard for the cooking, especially if you’re dining with any real French
people on this trip. Make it like a game. When I banned all derision of food at
our table, dinnertime became infinitely more enjoyable. As soon as my girls
were not allowed to express hatred for their food, they sometimes discovered
that they actually liked it.
You may end up being pleasantly surprised.
I’ve spoken with plenty of French parents who are bowled over by the confidence
and pluck they behold in our young Americans. As long as your kids are
respectful, not too loud and honor the almighty meal, you’ll be just fine. Is that asking too much?