Ah, Paris!

Eliza Clark
July 5, 2009

Many things conspire against a trip to Paris: the insane exchange rate, prohibitive air fares, and -- we almost forgot -- our darling preschoolers who, after being hauled across an ocean and multiple time zones, are not terribly likely to appreciate the City of Light as much as we would like. Sigh. And Sigh again.

Yes, we are allowing ourselves to wallow in a bit of nostalgia as we approach Bastille Day (Vive la Republique!). Nostalgia for the days when we could, if we were intent on it, pack our bags and leave on a trip (preferably to Paris) whenever we so chose. Nostalgia is, after all, a very French emotion. It is also the sentiment most alien and strange-seeming to little children. You can't long for things past when you have so very little past to begin with, much of which you can't even remember.

So, clearly, our children are not yearning for a visit to Paris the way we are. But it's not hard to generate a little longing in our little ones for that beautiful place. There are, after all, quite a few lovely books, lots of music, and one extraordinary movie to transport them there.

In his simply wonderful memoir of expat life with a preschooler, Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik tells us that his own childhood fascination with Paris started with The Red Balloon. If you saw this startlingly beautiful movie when you were little, you know what he's talking about. If you didn't, you are in for as much of a wondrous treat as your child. The 1957 film about a little boy and his friendship with a magic red balloon is enchanting and unforgettable. And Albert Lamorisse's book illustrated with stills is also well worth a look, since the film itself is wordless, and your little ones will want to revisit and discuss this story often.

Monsieur Gopnik (pronounced "gup-neek" in French) also remembers his early days reading Madeline which we treasure as one of the great classic books for young children (can you get over that it was first published in 1939!). We are delighted as well by the much more recent Adele & Simon, a romp through the city (complete with an excellent map) by an adorable big sister-little brother pair and a game of hide-and-seek all in one (p.s. be on the lookout for Madeline herself!). And if you really wish to be transported with your little ones in no time at all (and minus the plane ride) just pop Putumayo's joyous French Playground or the classic Songs in French for Children into your cd player, et voila!

Sharing these things with our children may, of course, just compound our own yen for a Parisian escape. But, as Proust taught us, nostalgia has its pleasures. And that's even more true if we can share it with the littlest loves of our lives, in happy anticipation of the day when we'll all visit Paris together.

Francophile parents can get even more ideas on imbuing their enfants (terribles?) with un peu de French culture and language at Being Savvy's West LA tribute to le Quatorze Juillet and LA's French preschool scene; Boston's guide to Bastille Day festivities plus French preschools; our Columbus feature on local French immersion schools; Detroit's post on where to find a good petanque game for preschoolers; and Silicon Valley's recipe for the best French Onion Soup ever. De rien!

From the Parents

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