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Kids and dogs on the streets of Paris

Back in the beginning of May, my son Adam and I took my dream trip to Paris and Rome. I am just now taking time to pull together some thoughts and observances that I had, so here is a first installment:

We were surprised to see that people in Paris and Rome don’t always walk their dogs on a leash, even on a busy street. The dogs know to stop at the corner and seem to be very well trained to come when called. The day we sat outside the Eiffel Tower in the park, watching the people go by, it was fun to see dogs running free. A beautiful husky was apparently lost and came by to visit with us for a while.

Parents are also pretty free with their children by U.S. standards. They just walk along and the kids, even little ones, are expected to follow. It’s not that they aren’t aware of their kids or concerned for their safety, it’s just that they don’t seem to have that obsession that parents here have with watching them every second. Keep in mind that the traffic is frightening – cars and buses and motorcycles careen by at breakneck speeds! I saw a little boy of about 2 toddling after his father, pushing his stroller – this is obviously an international phenomenon – when he veered off a driveway almost into the road with traffic. The father, a tall, lanky young man, was after him immediately, and scooped him up, chastising and hugging him for dear life at the same time. The father was obviously shaken by the near tragedy, but seemed to take it as part of the day.

Like the dogs, children are trained to stop at the corners. One of the first things I noticed in our little neighborhood in Paris were the kids riding around the sidewalks like crazy on scooters. I would have been scared to death when Adam was a boy for him to go flying down a crowded sidewalk on a scooter with cars and buses right there on the street, but the parents call for the children to stop at each corner and the children listen dutifully. Would American children be as obedient?

I couldn’t put my finger on what was different there, so I looked up “child rearing in Paris” and came across a book that came out a few years ago called “Bringing Up BeBe” by Pamela Druckerman. If you are currently raising little ones, you may want to read it. Here is a link to a great review:
http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2012/02/motherhood-mondays-how-to-raise-kids.html

The author is an American who couldn’t figure out why French children were not throwing tantrums and controlling their parents’ lives like children she observed here in the States, and she says it is because French parents basically ignore their kids 90% of the time and are much more relaxed. They encourage their children to play by themselves and foster independence in them, and believe it is okay to still have a life as a grown-up. They don’t worry if their kids are bored occasionally and teach them to wait for things. Also, their “non” means “non”.

I was not the perfect parent by any means, and it is by the grace of God that Adam has turned out to be the responsible adult that he is, but as an educator, I am appalled by the children who feel the world revolves around them and the parents who seem to agree. Young parents today seem to be trying awful hard! Maybe it is time to sit back and let our kids fall down and learn some lessons on their own, and try parenting with some “Laissez-faire” – (noninterference)!<a href="https://maflake.files.wordpress.com/

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Finding God in Paris

First night in Paris and can’t sleep. I don’t even know what time it is. I ate too much and drank an espresso after dinner that I think has me wired. Plus, noises outside the window of people walking around and talking and laughing, cars going by – the sounds of Paris – are keeping me awake.

The week before we left for this trip that I have dreamed about for years and planned for months, Krista Hall just about ruined it for me. The way she ruined it was by organizing an amazing project for the children at our church based on the parable of the talents – this is the thought provoking story Jesus told about the servant that buried his master’s talents (money) to keep it safe and is called down by his master, while the ones that put their money to work to make more money were praised. The moral of the story is that God wants us to use what we have for Him.

The children at 1st Methodist were given $10 ( or maybe $20?) and told to use it for God. They made all sorts of crafts that were sold at a special missions day at church and they did other things to make their money grow. Then, they used the money they made to have a group from Stop Hunger Now come to our church and with a very impressive organizational skill, we packaged enough rice, granola and vitamins into shrink wrapped bags to feed 10,000 starving people.

So I drove home from church that night feeling like a totally selfish person for anticipating my week with Adam visiting the great architecture and art of Paris and Rome and gorging on wonderful French and Italian food and wine. So to make amends, I prayed about it and asked God to show me how to bless someone on our trip and to make it a bonding time with Adam.

Instead, today on our first day in Paris, God showed his love through a good hearted restaurant owner who rescued Adam and me.

First the background – I have spent countless hours the last 4 months planning this trip. I booked our flights, got apartments for us to stay in through http://www.airbnb.com, scoured tourist sites and felt like I had all the bases covered. I have spent a week packing and wrote down everything we needed. The one thing I forgot was the printed pages telling us how to get into the apartment in Paris. Knowing that it was on my phone and ipad, I felt sure I could pull it up.

Adam and I both slept very little on the overnight flight. We arrived to a strangely empty Charles deGualle airport, got our bags and made our way to the train for the trip to the Gare du Nord, which was less than a mile from the apartment. The trip on the train was much like riding on Marta in Atlanta. It filled up the closer we got to Paris, but was not uncomfortable. When the doors opened at the Gare du Nord station, all of a sudden we were in chaos! People were everywhere, pushing and pulling, children running around, just bedlam. I felt like we were coming up from the bowels of the earth as we followed the ‘Sortie’ (exit) signs. Adam asked which exit we needed, and I said, just get us out of here!

As we finally saw daylight, we came across an informational booth and the slightly condescending man inside gave us directions on a map to our place, less than a mile away. Now Adam has been telling me how to get to places since he was 4 years old. He has a great sense of direction and was the geography bee winner of Ashworth Middle School in 8th grade. He could not find this place. We kept walking, pulling our suitcases across cobbled roads and through intersections with cars and motorcycles flying through. Finally he figured out that the guy in the booth had told him wrong. I figured the guy was laughing at the thought of us dumb Americans wandering around the streets of Paris, totally lost.

After about an hour, we finally found 31 Rue de Navarin, and with one of the emails I was able to pull up on my phone, got into the lobby of the century old building. But then we were stuck. We were supposed to get a key out of a box, but did not have the combination. If only we had that printed paper I had left! We were both so sleep deprived, we could hardly think. We stood there in the lobby, knowing we were right there, but could go no further, and that we could not use our phones and that we spoke very little French. Finally I said, “We have to find somewhere with wifi.” So we gathered up our luggage again and went out. I said, “I’m tired of going that way, let’s go this way,” and we went around the corner. There was a young man standing outside a restaurant and we asked him if he had wifi. He said yes, but that they were closed. When he saw our faces and looked at our bedraggled state, he invited us in and could not have been nicer. He had excellent English and when we explained our predicament, he gave us his wifi password, offered to make a phone call for us, offered us water and a place to sit down. I felt the presence of The Lord there with us. We were able to get the code we needed to get the key and in just a few minutes were in the apartment, safe and sound! I cannot tell you how appreciative we felt toward this young man for going the extra mile to help us, when he could have just as easily have said no.

Once again The Lord humbles me. I had thought maybe I could come over here and do something for these poor unChristian French folks, but the simple human kindness of this Parisian was literally a Godsend to us. I hope that I will be able to “pay it forward” and help someone else out in the same way. I am looking forward to how God will continue to bless me and Adam in the coming week!

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