Off to Paris…

So my daughter has gone to Paris. Actually that’s a lie. She’s gone to EuroDisney, near Paris, for a trip that her school has cunningly sold to the cheque-writing parents as ‘an educational Design and Technology visit to study theme park design’.
U-huh. And my 5th form ski trip was to study chair-lift design. Honest.

Aaaanyway, it’s her first school trip abroad and to avoid being labelled Meanist Bastard Parents In The World, Like, EVER we decided to cough up the money and lie to ourselves that she’d probably pick up some essential French while she was there too.

Like , Minnie Souris. And Donald Canard. And le popcorn.

There was, shall we say, some excitement leading up to departure day. This excitement started in October 2009, way back when the trip was first announced and we all still thought England could play football (ouch), and has grown steadily in the nine months since to reach a level of pre-teen hysteria of such magnitude it produced ground tremors measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.
It’s fair to say she was looking forward to studying theme park design quite a lot.

The night before she left I thought I probably ought to check what she’d packed in her Volkswagen Beetle-sized suitcase, for the 3-day life-changing expedition on a coach and Le Shuttle. 
It proved to be a good move:
“Darling, can I have a quick check in your suitcase please?”
“No! Why? Why? No.”
“Just to CHECK. It’s important that you have everything you need.”
“Oh God.” Sigh. “O-KAY. If you MUST.” Sigh. “But I’ve done it all already, Mum. It’s FINE.”
“Good. I’m sure it is. Now then…what’s this? Aha, a woolly hat. Because…?”
“Because you said to take a hat.”
“Yes, but it’s going to be 32 degrees in Paris. I was thinking more….sun hat?”
“But this is a NICE hat!”
“Yes, it is a nice hat. But it’s a WOOLLY hat. For when you need WOOL. Like, when it’s not 32 degrees.”
“FINE.” Sighs.
“OK, so not the hat. Do you have any suncream?”
“No.”
“OK. NO sun cream. But you seem to have…..let’s see here….one, two…three pairs of shoes.”
“Yes?”
“For 3 days.”
“Yes?”
“You don’t think that’s a little excessive, do you?”
“No. I might want to wear my pumps, or my sandals or my Converse.”
“Well can we decide on two please? I’m not sure the coach is able to transport 40 tonnes of footwear for your class.”
“Fine. I’ll leave the pumps.”
“Thank you. Well done. Now then, what’s this? DVDs.”
“Yes.”
“THREE DVDs?”
“Yes Mum. Look, we might want to watch on the coach, OK? Or in the evenings.”
“But you already have your ipod, and, I see here you’ve also packed the DS. And the biggest Harry Potter of them all, and an Alex Rider book. Honey, you’re going away for 3 DAYS, not 3 MONTHS. When are you going to use even a tenth of this stuff??”
“But….but I might want to read. Or play on the DS with my friends!!”
“Yes, yes you might.”
“Exactly.”
“OR, and this is just a thought, you might want to, oh I don’t know…..stop texting the person sitting next to you, look out of the window and actually SEE FRANCE!!”
“But I…I…look, everyone is bringing DVDs and shoes and phones and stuff. You don’t understand!”
She’s right. I really don’t understand at all.
And so the process went on, until half an hour past my bed time, which these days is just about hers.

In the end I let one DVD and one book stay in the suitcase (now half empty, having had two unnecessary changes of clothes and a dressing gown the size of a small elephant removed) and added the sun cream, her toothbrush and some pants.
What stuck with me most after this re-packing experience was not how much unnecessary stuff she’d packed (you want to see MY suitcase when I go away!) but how pained she had been to be parted from some of her on-board entertainment.  The concept of going without films, incessant music, computer games, a shoe collection to rival Imelda Marcos’ and a mobile phone for three whole DAYS was almost unbearable to her.
On a schol trip! With her best mates!

How about switching it all OFF, looking out of the window, listening to the new sounds around you and actually learning something about France? Whatever happened to talking to your friends, seeing who could smuggle the most alcohol on board (I don’t condone this at all, and have never ever smuggled alcohol onto a school coach. Obviously. Tut tut tut.) and living in the real, 3-D  world for a while??

Oh, I know. I know. I’m too old-fashioned. I need to ‘get with it’ more. But still….

Aller, a bientot mes amis.
Liz : -)
www.liz-fraser.com

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12 thoughts on “Off to Paris…

    1. lizfraser Post author

      Harsh…but fair. 3 pairs of shoes….How many will she pack when she’s 18??? Mind boggles.

      Reply
  1. Mel

    In an ideal world the school would stipulate that DSs and DVDs should NOT be brought along. I can see the point of phones and music, and 3 pairs of shoes.. but surely as much as the D&T side of things, surely there is an element of bonding that goes on on school trips… with or without smuggled in alcohol!

    Reply
  2. lizfraser Post author

    Definitely agree, Mel. Come to think of it, there WAS a list somewhere of things kids weren’t allowed to bring. But I don’t think DVDs were on it. I guess they didn’t think anyone would be such a nincompoop! Still, she’s living and learning. And so am I…

    Reply
  3. Spencer Park

    I can only imagine what my ex wife would have said if I’d limited her to 3 pairs of shoes. I know that it would definitely have made it into the divorce petition! I hope that she has a fab time.

    Reply
    1. lizfraser Post author

      Thanks Spencer. I’m sure she’s had a ball. You make me think back to the time when I backpacked around the world for 6 months, in 1 pair of flip flops and 1 pair of trainers….not sure I’d manage that now! Women and shoes eh? What that’s all about…?!

      Reply
  4. Josephine Tale Peddler

    We’ve just returned from a trip to the mountains where there was no television. I thought this would destroy my five year old but she loved it and thrived without her daily fix of Scooby Doo. I feel like lying down at the thought of organizing a teenager to pack. My daughter is bad enough with wanting to take the entire toy cupboard away. xx

    Reply
  5. nicole

    I understand your point of view. I am agree, I hate DS and mobile phone! However..if your daughter could read what you wrote about her… I think that we do not ridicule our sons in their “stupid” choice! not in a blog or with our friends.
    My english is horrible! Sorry!

    Reply
  6. lizfraser Post author

    No, your English is very good – much better than my Italian. But I think the tone of the piece may have been lost in translation: it was not meant to ‘ridicule’ her in any way, or make her choices appear stupid. That would be unforgiveable. Instead it was to illustrate (with humour) how much kids are living in the virtual world (girls AND boys)…how to laugh at how we parents struggle to keep up with our kids as they grow up in this world. Many readers seem to identify exactly with this. My daughter is free to read everything I write – and does, with a great sense of humour! She knows how much I adore her : -)

    Reply
  7. federica

    this makes me think about my school trips..I remember that my mum used to open my luggage the night before the trip and half empty it..and I remember my anger when I used to find that out at the destination (“only” 2 pairs of shoes for 4 days). everything seemed essential to me..and for everything i mean MY WHOLE ROOM. it’s impossible to wear and use everything in 3 days! and it’s get much more complicated if there is someone you like in the class (that was my case)..you want to be perfect any time of the day! but still..12 years ago we had half of the electronic equipment that teenagers have now! i do agree with you that is alarming the little time kids spend now doing soething as normal as looking to each other and talking to each other face by face. why? when they can sms each other, chat on msn, or tag each other on facebook? i am bit scared about the future. but how do you make your keep these old good values when all the rest is so much into it?? they might laugh at you if you propose to go for a walk and just talk??

    Reply
    1. lizfraser Post author

      Ah, the boy thing is SO true! I remember that feeling too: have to take EVERYTHING…..just in case you don’t look 100% perfect! I think the only way to keep the old values is to have them as part of your everyday life at home. To embrace all the new stuff – as some of it is fantastic – but also to make SURE kids spend some time EVERY day talking and sitting together as a family, and eating together, and switching all the electrical stuff OFF. Even things like asking me if they can use the phone, and never having a computer in their room, asking if they can watch a bit of telly etc is really important to us, to make sure there is a normal ‘human’ element to their life. Don’t worry too much: you know….if you make kids come out for a walk, often they complain but when they do it they do really enjoy it. Even if they pretend they don’t…; -) Thanks for posting.

      Reply
  8. nicole

    Yes! Your problems are our problems. Many parents are in your position, also me, and it is evident that you adore her. But sometimes on can hoist a wall. All depend on the relationship and confidence with our sons 😉
    Have a good weekend (I am a fan of Spain!!).

    Reply

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