Monday, January 16, 2006

Fun with sharp sticks - fencing in Paris

One of our unsuccessful efforts to build our children’s enthusiasm for the big move to Paris was to let them see the movie, “The Three Muskateers.” They loved the movie, but still hated the move.

Of all our many shortcomings as parents, perhaps none are quite as glaring as our inability to instill any sort of pacifistic tendencies into our children. Every object is transformed in their chubby hands into a weapon of devastating power.

At some point, we shifted our focus from prohibiting violence to channeling the violence (it’s ok to hit each other with sticks, just don’t use sharp sticks). In keeping with this philosophy of appeasement, it was only a matter of time before the sharp stick injunction went by the wayside too.

At his school, Austen befriended a girl who was taking fencing classes and who showed him a few basic moves. Then he went to see her practice at her fencing academy (where half of the fencers are girls!). Last Saturday we took both boys for their first lesson.

Having talked about it for a week, on the day of the outing the boys both got cold feet. At issue for them was not a fear for bodily well-being but the much more precious commodity of self-esteem – the only language spoken at the school is French.

It is one thing to endure normal school in French and a very different thing to volunteer your Saturday for more instruction in French. Austen declared that he had thought so much about the difficulties of learning fencing in French that his tummy hurt. Alexander announced that he was going to make the instructors repeat everything in English.

Every child dreams of being transported into the middle of a three musketeer’s movie – last weekend that dream came true. The sight and sound of 30 children beating on one another with swords puts the action scenes in any Three Muskateers movie to shame.

The other children were patient and polite with ours, the language was not a problem, and we have now retreated to the almost completely untenable parental position that it is ok to hit each other with sharp sticks as long as you are both wearing padding.

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