I got this question from a reader and it turned into a NOVEL… I had to post it separately.
How do I stop being so nervous?
My young son (a couple of years younger than yours) goes to a “normal” daycare two days a week. We really like it there — no drama.
My son just got into a great preschool for another two days a week and I’m so nervous. This is a more of a pre-school than a garderie with a good reputation and I’m worried all the other parents and teachers are going to look down on my son and I.
I’m stressed and anxious.
How can I be confident that we’re good enough for this? (I realize my question is ridiculous — he’s 2… we’re all good enough for pre-school, but I can’t stop feeling stressed.
I should mention that this pre-school is French French, and we’re more French-Canadian so I feel conscious about this as well).
Okay, so I am going to say some things from my own PERSONAL observations and having been with someone from France for more than a decade, having met all of his friends & family, and having heard what they say to each other (once I could understand and speak French that is) — this is all to say that please take the following with a grain of salt because this is my PERSONAL opinion.
I am not saying everyone falls into these stereotypes but I have found some commonalities, observing as an outsider and having been treated as such when I am in France (yes for real).
Feel free to riposte in the comments but remember — this is a personal blog after all 😉
First of all, French-from-France folks are no better or worse than you.
They just have a different accent.
I think it is very similar to how we Anglos think that anything the British say is super polished and upper crust, but having talked to many-a-Brit, they tell me it depends on the region (not everyone has an upper crust English accent), and it doesn’t mean jack.
I think you should feel ZERO stress that they speak a different accent.
They just have a different tongue outfit on (LOL).
Don’t feel the need to posh up anything, you will just feel even more self-conscious and ridiculous.
I won’t lie to you however and say that some French-from-France do not look down on the French-Canadians.
NOT ALL OF THEM DO.
…unfortunately, I can tell you affirmatively that this kind of snobbery DOES EXIST, but as a result, they’re seen as cold snobs (unfortunate), and I find that the Québécois are far friendlier and more welcoming than they are due to their lack of pretension (overall).
…and that is how you should look at it.
You are no better or worse than they are because you speak differently, and frankly, you should embrace that you are French-Canadian because you are then seen as NOT pretentious or cold by others, but even better, you did not grow up with all of their cultural issues.
What cultural hangups, you may ask?
The two main ones I see that are recurring in some French-from-France folks is:
A) They do not really travel outside of France on the whole…
They say this themselves (many of them) when they hear all of the countries we have been to and lived in.
They are not exposed to other cultures, and don’t really get to see what the world is like — whereas in Canada we are such a melting pot that it is normal to see all types of folks.
I know when we go back, they pepper us with questions but are not super curious enough to buy a ticket and leave for a bit.
B) ..because they feel self-conscious as well
AH HAH! THIS IS A FRENCH TRICK NO ONE ELSE KNOWS ABOUT.
They are all VERY VERY self-conscious about how they do not speak English as well as they should.
Québécois I find, will just go for it — they’ll say whatever they can mash into the English language, confident and proud that we will eventually get what they are saying even if it is not translated well, conjugated properly or pronounced correctly, because NO ONE GIVES A FLYING EFF.
This is communication.
French-from-France however, want to be perfect in everything, especially languages (the key to showing how “worldly” and “cultured” you are..).. and I find that they, out of fear of looking or sounding stupid, will REFUSE to speak English even if (at the time) I barely knew the difference between mes bras and mes arbres (True story, I actually said “mes arbres” when I was learning French, trying to refer to my arms)..
They tend to be so self-conscious that they are relieved when I mash out words in French, and know that they are self-conscious so they will just clam up during English conversations.
There you go.
Secret weapon to use whenever you feel inferior (which you should not), is that they are just as self-conscious as you are, and maybe even worse for them — they are trying to compete with OTHER Frenchies who want to know what school they went to, their family name, where they live — all markers of social class and status amongst the French.
Lastly, if none of the above works, I will let you in on the very last secret —
The French who are here from France, are here in Canada for a reason.
They left France for a reason — whatever reason that may be.
They are more open minded.
They are less judgemental, and definitely less snobby.
I have found a lot of French-from-France to be pretty harsh on their country, moreso than anyone else, and especially the ones abroad are very open-minded, kinder and less snobby than maybe some you might find in France (particularly Paris) themselves.
They may be a little bit aloof at first, or “cold” but that is because they were not brought up to be super warm and friendly to strangers they do not know.
They will, in time, get to know you and like you, but it takes time. I’m even still a bit confused about his family — we have known each other for so long and I still don’t feel like I KNOW them, you know?
We haven’t exactly had heart-to-heart talks pouring out our feelings because they just do not do that.
Now, on to your self-consciousness:
If none of the above helped alleviate it, just think of it this way:
You. Got. In.*
Repeat that to yourself:
You. Got. In.*
(*Well your son did but .. let’s call it the same thing).
You have nothing to prove to anyone but to yourself and your son, and you will encounter rude, terrible people in your life from all walks of life, cultures and races, but you just have to think and believe that you belong there — AND YOU DO.
You don’t need to ask anyone for acceptance or validation because your son and all his new friends at the daycare, will be friends no matter what accent they speak with.
They will be excited to just play together and grow up together, and sometimes you need to set aside your own biases and parental fears and let kids be kids.
Don’t say anything of your fears of being self-conscious out loud either like: Don’t say ____! Say “____” instead, it is more proper in French.
Kids internalize more than you think.
Leave your son to be who he wants to be, and only if he truly says things incorrectly, then correct him (as I do to my own son in English when he doesn’t conjugate correctly, saying “broke-ed” instead of “broke” for the past tense of “break”).
Just smile, be friendly, treat them like any other parent who is just as nervous and as self-conscious as you are.
Like any other parent.
Lastly, capitalize on that.
I usually expose a fear or two of mine as a parent, through humour, and I break the ice in such a way that other parents realize they aren’t alone, they open up and are much warmer as a result.