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It was cloudy this morning for the November 11th ceremony but the day ended sunny.

I have five kids, two teenagers (15 and 16) and three young ones (5, almost 7 and 8). When my older children were young, I tended to listen to what I thought were their needs and probably ended up protecting them a bit too much. I did teach them to be very independant, so much that now they have plans to leave France as soon as they can. But when it came to certain things, like starting school and their extracurricular activities, I was very sensitive of their fears, their likes and dislikes. This may seem normal and an attitude that makes a “good mother”, but over time, I realized that I was sometimes a bit of a pushover. When Mathieu started school at 3, he would cry and so what did I do? I took him out. Why? Because in Canada, we don’t put our kids in school every day at 3. When Mathieu and Hélène decided that they didn’t like their extracurricular activity anymore, I made them finish the year and then they chose something else the next year.

Now with the smaller ones, I have come to the decision that I need to be a little bit more cold and forceful. This year, they all had to choose an extracurricular activity and I  decided I was going to help them develop pleasure from their advancement in that activity. It means that I spend a lot of time driving back and forth to town because Lou has rhythmic gymnastics two evenings a week and on Wednesdays they all have either fencing or gym and Sean has climbing some weekends. They all LOVE their activites, though on some days, Margot will beg to be able to stay with me. Out of the question. She MUST go, even if I bribe her a bit by saying, Of course I am waiting just behind the closed door. I won’t leave! She isn’t stupid, though, and when she comes out she say, You weren’t there, were you? Well, no. I had some shopping to do. OK, no big deal. She had a great time.

Yesterday Sean went climbing and part of the afternoon included a small via ferrata where he was walking along small metal rods with NOTHING underneath him for 20 meters. It was very, very scary for him. Apparently he did a bit of crying, as did his good friend. But with the urging of their climbing monitor, Marco, they managed to advance and finish the trail. They both came home full of pride and really quite full of themselves. But today they had the possiblity to go on another excursion, this time to a much bigger via ferrata with parts that would be even higher, up to 200 meters off the ground. Both boys, to be perfectly honest, were scared out of their wits by the idea.

This is when, I feel, a parent’s guidance comes in. Do we decide that our boy is still young, with ample opportunity to grow up and decide to take part in such a scary adventure later on when he feels more mature. Or do we urge him to go for it because since he has started on this road of new experiences that test his limits of fear, it’s best to continue with the idea that the more he does something, the less he will be scared. They always say that if you fall off a swing, you musn’t walk away, but hop back on in order to erase the fear that could grow from that bad experience. Sean didn’t fall, but he had a catalyst of fear that could grow in him and so we decided to push him to go today. I know my son. He is a scaredy cat. But often when he feels frightened by something, he just needs a nudge to help him get over his fears. So, we decided to nudge him today.

I admit I was a bit worried throughout the day. What if he was in the middle of a bridge and couldn’t move anymore from fear and stopped the whole group from advancing? I have confidence in the monitor because he had Mathieu when he was younger and Mat had a great time with him. I knew he could get Sean to continue and to enjoy the experience. Well, I really hoped so.

This evening, when darkness had fallen and Sean had been gone for 9 hours, I went to pick it. I turned to him and said, “Alors?”

“Maman, c’était GENIAL !” (Mom, it was great!)

Right then and there I knew we had made the right decision.

Jennifer is a Canadian/American, living in the South of France for the last 18 years. Married to a frenchman who's job forces him to spend a lot of his time overseas, she has learned to cope with all those everyday challenges brought about by her sometimes crazy life. Adapting to a new culture, raising children, taking care of animals, growing a vegetable garden, cooking for her family and friends, teaching cooking classes and trying to maintain a fairly organized and inviting home. Here are some of her thoughts about it all.

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