[EN] Autonomous Children

Blog post: written by Mckenna

I currently find myself laying in the damp shaded grass of Le Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin.

    For the past hour or so, I’ve been completely enthused by the activities of the youth on their, I assume, daily recess. Since, I was a child, I’ve envied the lifestyles of French children. They’re loudly independent yet disciplined and are clearly comfortable with the depths of their city.

    In observing the interactions between children and their parents on the street, on the subway, and elsewhere in this city, it has become apparent to me that these children have earned great amounts of
self-freedom. I believe this to be an extremely foreign concept to the majority of Americans; unlike these Parisian children, we grew up in rigid environments with strict relationships and rules. We were constantly self-conscious and uncomfortable in our society of uneasy townspeople. I always hear people casually say that they wish they could be a child again, without a worry in the world- no job, no children, no fear. However, whenever I ask my friends, or other people of my generation, if they would be a child again if given the possibility, they always respond no. They then go on to explain how many of them dealt with depression and anxiety from a very young age; we were always unnecessarily stressed. 

    We were constantly fighting to be taken seriously and to grow up; out parents’ issues quickly became our issues, and we felt a need to make everything a competition. I recently learned that this sense of mind is usually reached later on in life, during the teenage years, for many French children.

    It’s been incredibly interesting to me to watch these local children go about their day-to-day life. A few days ago, I was walking in the Marais behind a mother and her freely walking toddler. They’re walking and talking with loud smiles, until suddenly they abruptly stop, and the child turns and hugs his mother. I made eye contact with the child, and he smiled from ear to ear; they radiated immense warmth and love, I almost started sobbing. This site seemed uncommon to me- I’m used to parents and children being annoyed with each other about ninety percent of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and we have a great relationship, but I was constantly curious about adult issues, which is doing so, stole a chunk of my innocence. So, I don’t blame them, I was unbearable!

Even the teenagers seem simply cooler and more independent than American teenagers.

    Perhaps its due to growing up in a city, but they always dress to impress; they are able to embrace their personality and vibe through their clothing- without one outfit ever looking the same as another. I always found myself in awe of the beauty they create, as they sit for a picnic with their friends along the banks of the Seine or at the park; they meet after class to share a bottle of wine and wave to the tourists as they pass on their river cruises. How beautifully and bizarrely unique!

    So, I lay here and all I can think is that these children are truly such interesting people. I watch as one boy steals another’s hat after it had fallen off, after the owner asks for it back, the boy throws it on the ground in front of him. Rude. Next, I watch as two girls forcibly looked under another girl’s shirt and try to remove it. Even more rude. What was much more enjoyable to experience though was that all the children decide to run up the stairs of the park to the nearby public fountain to fill their water bottles, assuming the teachers would think they’re just trying to stay hydrated. Nope! They run back down and have a full-blown water fight; it was wild, they were having a blast!

    After this a student goes to her teacher, complaining of being too hot; the teacher removes the young girl’s shirt, soaks it in water, and places it back on her torso. Well, if she gets to cool down, shouldn’t the other girls too? So, all the girls on one side of this park remove their shirts. Well of course the boys start to run over, oblivious of the process; this causes all the kids to start running around aimlessly with several topless girls holding their t-shirts up to their chests- as if to hide the breasts they don’t have…a good practice, nonetheless. 

    So, I lay here and am utterly intrigued by the events I just witnessed; all I can think is that I wish I was a child again. I wish I could do it over, but simpler this time- with more love and naiveté to give to the world. Or maybe I just wish I was having as much innocent fun as they are!