Friday, June 08, 2007

In Which I Volunteer at School

I did double volunteer duty at the French school Wednesday and, I tell you Midge, I am fried. First, I had Piscine (swimming pool duty). They ask pairs of mothers to come along and help, and my partner for this was a very nice woman who speaks English better than I do.

Thankfully, we weren't required to get in the water, but just kept an eye on the kids from the side so they don't drown or injure themselves. Some of the girls seemed fixated on building sandwiches with themselves: they would lie in layers on top of each other, pushing the one on the bottom farther and farther under the water . . . seemed like a bad idea to me. I finally called a halt.

The kids didn't seem to get any instruction: just an hour in the pool. They were divided into two groups, and the bigger, stronger swimmers (on this occasion it was all boys) stayed in the deep end and had some structured activity with their regular teacher, Monsieur V. But the others, and this included Baboo, just splashed about in the shallow end while the Gym Teacher, who speaks no French, mimed that they should throw and retrieve the balls and other objects he brought with him. At least he got into the water with them. But he didn't teach them a thing.

Baboo swam around like a fish, and at the end Monsieur V told me he would move her to the section of better swimmers next time. That was good.

Then we helped process them in the showers. Here the good part was that I got Baboo to wash her hair, so she looks half decent.

I was totally exhausted after Piscine. I was yawning in the van with the kids on the way back to school. My partner mom, who knew I had several more hours of volunteer duty ahead, thought this was very funny.

Piscine Duty was followed by Playground Duty. The parents hosted a Thank You Lunch for the teachers and staff, so together with a different English-speaking mom, I directed kids through the lunch room (like herding cats!), served them their soup ("Please sir, may I have some more?"), and then, watched while they did not eat their main course. The other mom and I then shepherded them out to the playground where they tried to kill themselves and each other for a while. Eventually some of them began to want to go inside (a group of boys approached me and said they wanted to go in to "repose," which is just French for "quiet time," but sounds so funny.) so I became Inside Mom while the other woman remained Outside Mom.

My God! The dramas:

Kid 1: She ate my snack!
Me: Well, too bad. I can't bring it back, can I?

Kid 2: I lost my lunch bill.
Me: Well, if you've looked everywhere, then you'll just have to ask for a new one tomorrow.

Kid 3: He hit me!
Me: So stay away from him. The playground is big.

Me: Oh, dear me, yes, there's quite a bit of blood. Let me wash your arm and side and shirt. You say it was a girl who did this? A YOUNGER girl?

Me: Why did you hit that other kid on the head with that giant rock?

Me: If you think you can behave now, you don't have to sit on the time-out bench any more.

Me: Did you want your glasses back?

Me: I thought hanging upside down off that was not allowed.

Did I mention this was all in French? Boy, talk about crash course on the imperative and tu forms. I'm not that good, either; I spent most my time hunting for one of my kids to translate . . . A few friends have suggested it would be hysterical to read back the transcripts of this day, translating what I said back into English.

I concluded that all of the teachers and staff are grossly underpaid. Many of the children were delightful and charming. Many of them, kindly, viewed me as a curiosity and followed me around to see what I would do and say. They thought it was impressive when I shuffled cards for them (and I can't even bridge), and funny when I had to count in English to deal. Several drew pictures for me. I have a new fondness for many of them: they're good people.

Spouse Update:
Thursday morning found a Very Cranky Spouse trying to work from our bedroom. He was still profoundly uncomfortable which didn't make him particularly patient when the office staff didn't respond the way he would have liked to his request to courier some documents over to the house. Follow that with the fact that he thought the documents needed a lot of revision, and you have a very good reason to tiptoe out of the room.

I thought about what I would want in a situation like that, and decided that when I am the least approachable, what I really crave is affection. So I offered what I expect is the Boy Version of Affection: Sex. This is how bad he felt: he smiled, but he took a rain check.

After lunch I took him back to the doctor for the follow-up visit. This time they didn't even pull the paper over the examining table: he had to lie on the vinyl, goodies just out there on the plastic where God-Knows-Who laid their goodies last.

The doctor yanked off the bandage like a salon wax job.

So far so good. They pull out the rain-chain drain. The Spouse winces. Then they filled a needle less syringe with Betadine and shot up the wound with it. THAT really hurt: Betadine STINGS and, further, it was being shoved into the very tender spot anyhow. I think he bent his end of the table while I stood there whispering, "Calm blue ocean! Calm blue ocean!"

This time he did NOT sit down while the doctor wrote out the report. But he is certainly feeling better because his mood has improved dramatically. It was like a different person returned home and hung out in the living room last night. He even kept me company while I watched Manhattan (Still funny. And for some reason I still want to be as neurotic and intellectual as Diane Keaton's character. What is wrong with me?).

We have a Big Weekend of Social Events coming up, and, for once, I am actually looking forward to all these parties. He claims he feels well enough to drive, so I have my designated driver, too. Sweet. I just hope it isn't too much activity for him. I'll give you a full report next week.


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