Saturday, March 18, 2006

Samedi vaqué shopping

When my eldest was in Maternelle I was always shocked that parents dumped their kids in school for the morning on a Saturday. Being British, and from the early comprehensive generation, I had never experienced school on a Saturday, and believed it was a foul piece of cruelty to children typical of the French, whose school system is draconianly systematic and rigid. Every so many weeks, however, kids have a Saturday off, known as the samedi vaqué.

French parents are occasionally polled by their local education authorities to find out whether they are happy with the school week as it is, or whether they'd prefer to change to a 4-day week, so no school on Saturdays, but longer terms. I had to vote on the subject at the beginning of the year and chose to keep the present system. Many parents vote to keep school on a Saturday so they can do their shopping in peace. I tried to think of different excuses to this end, so I didn't appear quite so self-serving, and found a good one : if the kids have shorter holidays, their father would not see them so much. There, that's not bad, is it?

So, why do I like my eldest in school? Basically so that I don't finish the morning like a washed out piece of old rag passed through a mangle and wound so tight it takes a darkened room and the soothing hands of 20 masseurs to untangle the knots.

I get complaints from him about the number of shops to visit, the order in which we visit them, and then, whilst we are in them, a continual barrage of pestering to buy this or that sugary piece of crap, all while I'm trying to assess fresh food available and possible menus for the following week. It's like having my brain torn in two, and the knowledge that if I get it wrong, we'll have to come back because I won't have done the right shopping for the food they'll eat, and it'll all cost more and we'll end up on the streets without a roof over our heads because of my poor household management...

When he is not around, it all passes off a lot more easily and calmly. I have my list, which is not set in stone, so allowing for special offers, and can plan for meals and replacing missing items from the cupboards that I might have forgotten about originally. I come home, have a coffee and then go to fetch my darling from school unperturbed and serene.

The prospect of eternal samedi vaqués is thus a disturbing one, but one I may have to face when my eldest changes schools next year. It's almost enough to make it worth it for me to keep him where he is!

I jest.... sort of...

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