The French have garnered some parenting interest lately thanks to the book Bringing up Bébé. But I am not here to defend or critique that book—smarter and better writers than I have tackled that hoopla. Rather, this week, my internal Francophile has been musing over a great French expression, faire le point. It has a number of meanings: finding one’s bearings, re-setting your compass, or taking stock of the situation at hand.
Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you got up on the wrong side of the bed, day after day after day? When everything seems to get on your nerves? Waiting for the guy at the coffee counter who is more interested in flirting with customers than serving coffee…the lady in the fur coat in front of me at the grocery store fishing for that 24 cents of exact change in her enormous fanny pack (incongruous image, I know), the coffee leaking from that “spill-proof" mug into my overstuffed shopping bag…those little moments test my patience.
We all have those not-on-the-ball kinds of days, weeks, or god forbid, months. But combined with a willful independent-minded 2 ½ year-old toddler, and it can be combustible. Such was last week with my son. Imagine: lots of throwing toys around, tackling his baby sister, and general misbehaving to get my attention. Already grouchy, I found myself at a loose end more than once, trying to keep it together for the both of us. Not my finest hours of parenting. As I tried to take a deep breath during one difficult moment, I found myself thinking, Il faut faire le point.
I gave myself a time-out to get some perspective. First, a little rant via email and voicemail to my two closest friends—both have young children and were able to give some reassurance: “Throwing and hitting aren’t acceptable. It’s good you are setting some limits,” and “It’s ok to be mad at your kid sometimes. We’re only human.”
I also turned to some good old-fashioned bibliotherapy. I took advantage of a couple of rare free hours in the afternoon midweek to go to a coffee shop, drink a latte, and read a little of “Positive Discipline” which helped me to find those bearings again. One of the phrases I thought was especially helpful was the guiding principle of being “kind and firm” with our budding preschooler.
Not to say that we didn’t have more bumps in the road after that self-imposed time-out. We muddled through a couple of more challenging situations, but also I tried out some new strategies, and slowly I am getting out of that rut I was in. My time-out was kind and firm to myself, which has translated to my being more kind and firm with my toddler.
The French have it right: Sometimes we gotta faire le point.