Le Vous Me Tue*

Throughout this whole vous issue I've been dealing with, I've been thinking about a good point that my Moom brought up.  I was perusing the aisles of Picard, explaining my extreme honte to my mother when she said, "how are you going to teach this concept to your children if you don't even believe in it yourself."

Oh dear. My Moom is right - if the vous were a religion, I would only use it at Christmas and Easter.  I just can't get behind this archaic institution.

Apparently my parents tried to get me to say, "Hello Mrs. Smith" and "Thank you, Mr. Jones," but the relaxed 1980's California vibe just didn't jive with the 1950's world my parents grew up in.  No one did that anymore. My friends' parents would say, "oh just call me Sally" or " Just call me Margaret" - none of this Mr. and Mrs. junk or Sir and Ma'am.  Sure, I called my teachers Mrs. Collins and Mr. Miller, but aside from that, everyone was on a first name basis with everyone else.  And I liked it that way.

During my first couple of years in France, I babysat for a family with three children. They were great kids with involved parents, but I could tell from get go that une bonne éducation was a big priority for them. The maman would ask if they had finished their devoir (homework) and when they responded "oui", she would said "comment?" (what?). They would immediately stand up a little straighter and correct themselves with the sing-song response, " Oui, Maman" (Yes, Mom).

Those kids were taught to say Oui Maman, Non merci Papa, Excusez-moi Madame, Bonjour Monsieur, Merci Madame, Aurevoir Monsieur. Never just - Yes, No, Excuse me, Hello, Thank you, Good Bye.  Without following the response by addressing the person to whom you are talking, you are clearly, mal-élévé with une mauvaise éducation. Basically, no one taught you any manners.

I certainly do not want my kids to be rude - I will always teach them to be polite and considerate of others. But, is all this formality really necessary? And what if someone with who they should normally use the "vous" (a teacher or elder, for example), talks to them badly - should they really have to maintain a certain respect level just because it's the done thing? How will I ever get a handle on this French way of interacting? If I think it's silly, how will that not rub off on my poor Franco-American (unborn) children? (I realize I am fretting over kids that are not even In Utero, but just hear me out :-)

My first response to my Moom was, "Well, that will be Copain's job." But then I thought again... of course there will be times when I am in public with my kids and Copain is not there. Though I will only speak in English with them, they will speak in French with those around them, and surely I will need to correct their levels of politesse - in French. Génial.  This means I had better figure out how I feel about all this stuff - it almost feels as important as religion - what values do you impart on your enfants? Do you both agree on the important stuff? Can I explain to my kids that to me it is a game?

Maybe they just need to learn how to be good players in both countries... whether they are bluffing or not.

*The Vous Kills Me

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