While many people dream of a luxuriating summer at Parisian cafés, roaming the halls of the Louvre, or rocking out at AfroPunk Paris, my son has done all the above at the tender age of six. And yes, my son will have the privilege to claim that his first golf and tennis lessons were in Paris, as well. He swung his golf club toward the visible Eiffel Tower. A real fantasy, but the summer was not all frills. We were going through major transitions in our lives, which made me determined to make it a fantastic summer overseas. As a parent, I decided we needed to put on rose-colored glasses, savor life and stimulate all of our senses. The long-term perks would be life-long shared memories and opening my son’s eyes in ways beyond one’s imagination.
Our awe-inspiring summer was an intentional break from the fast-approaching curve balls of life. I was in the middle of a divorce and did not want my son to spend his summer worrying. I also wanted him to see and understand different ways of living and being. As a result of the pending divorce, it meant we would have to move from our large home to a much smaller space. I felt that a chic, Parisian apartment would show the advantage of both great style and quality of life in a compact space.
I quickly realized in lieu of paying for his summer camps in the US, the money could be applied to renting a summer apartment in Paris. We would enjoy the free activities together with carefully curated splurges. I also wanted to be constructive, so I enrolled at the Sorbonne to study French with half-day intensive morning classes. My son did part-time camp, while I was in class or hung out with me at the University. The afternoons belonged to us to enjoy.
We enjoyed the vintage shops of the old, and pop-up shops of the new. Our neighborhood market became a ritual as we learned French ingredients and spices from former colonies from which we have less familiarity as Anglophone Americans. We found playgrounds, Legoland and plazas with “Euro-cool” skateboarders. All of these activities were free, fun for my son, and gave Mommy a chance to study. My son enjoyed a water park that was 10 Euros a day with Parisian treats and a two-storied carousel that reminded us of the one in beloved Martha’s Vineyard. We still talk about the mind-blowing fireworks that launched from the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day!
Surprisingly, the open-air bus tour was a highlight. As a perpetual world traveler, I admit I thought such tours were reserved for globe-trotting 101. Well, even a seasoned traveler can appreciate the “back to basics” that is necessary for parents traveling with kids. The bus tour allowed my son to learn how to read maps (a rare commodity these days), establish landmarks and gauge his general surroundings. I then empowered him to prioritize our summer itinerary based on what sparked his interest from the tour. Taking the metro to get around became its own fun adventure throughout and under Paris.
We saw Alvin Ailey perform at the stunning, new La Seine Musicale performing arts venue. I wanted my son to see his African-American cultural influence internationally. Just as he saw an Oakland-based Blues band play at AfroPunk Paris. I explained that while we were traveling to experience another culture, our unique culture is celebrated and transported all over the world. Admittedly, he did doze off in the middle of the dance concert (Revelations, no less) but I enjoyed myself, and he appreciated the overall experience. No regrets, the imprint was made. Honestly, we were both worn out from our trek to pick up our tickets only to go the opposite direction to the newer outskirts of the city. This is the kind of flexibility a parent needs to have and weigh the trade-offs. So much for mobile barcode scanning, live and learn! The good thing is although we indulged in our share of caramel crepes, croissants, and homemade ice cream, I still managed to drop a few pounds from all the hustle and bustle (and unprocessed food).
My summer in Paris was to reclaim fun and joy in my life and prepare for very adult transitions (which went smoothly with a renewed spirit). My son’s world-sense opened, and while in France, he identified other countries he wants to explore. He was introduced to ethical concepts like impacts of colonization and excavation of Mummies for public display. While this trip may be coined as once-in-a-lifetime, for my son, it opened up his world for the rest of his life. For me, it helped me prepare for the next chapter in mine.