“That was the best & worst week of my life!”

Abandonment is a strong word to use in the context of parenting, but we learned recently it has its benefits.

On a crisp spring morning last month, Marisa and I dropped the three elder #littlefrenchiesmurfs off with their village classmates for a five-day field trip known as “la classe verte” (short for découverte = discovery).[1] The boys had known this day was coming for months, but foreknowledge only takes you so far in foreign territory.

Turns out our little by-products of a standardized American public school system were prone to emotional side-affects when confronted with France’s rich traditions:

“Five days away… and it’s far away!!...

They’re going to make us sleep in a castle... hey, maybe it’ll be the dungeon!

…I’m pretty sure they’re crazy here!!”

As anyone who knows our boys can imagine, the morning of the departure was witness to the full range of emotions: #sammajamma was quietly damning up his reservoir of tears, #noahbidoah was anxiously brooding, and #oliverboliver couldn’t wait to get on the bus (the entire school of six classes fits comfortably into one standard bus).

By the time the bus pulled away from the school parking lot for their five-hour journey, the tinted bus window into their new adventure revealed Noah characteristically oblivious to the world, Oliver chit-chatting away with buddies, and Sammy weeping silently next to a unknown parent supervisor.

I’d like to say we anxiously paced the home for the next five days praying and hoping they’d have a positive experience, but instead we boarded a plane with #eliotzeliot to Barcelona for the week.

We did, however, make sure to fly home in time to pick up the boys. The opposing bookend of their adventure revealed Noah bounding off the bus with wooden sword in hand, Oliver breaking away from his friends long enough to hand us his luggage, and sweet Sammy carefully weaving his way through the crowd - the damned tears (of joy, thankfully) visibly cracking behind his big brown eyes.

What I found most poignant in the experience was Noah’s unprompted exclamation on the car ride home: “That was the best and worst week of my entire life!”

That 13-second, 11-word expression threw my mind into a rewind of times I’d made a similar exclamation, none of which came at as early an age as Noah. It also aptly summed up 92% of our imperfect adult reasoning for this family experience. We knew throwing the boys into France wouldn’t be easy. Truth be told, we still have nights (like last Thursday) when many many tears are shed: Family is too far away, school is never-ending, basically you name the subject and the boys can still rattle off endless reasons why France stinks like bad bleu cheese.

And yet, in all that is rotten and horrible, Marisa and I catch daily glimpses into the accomplishments imperceptible to their little boy eyes.

Case in point, last night was spent at the school’s Kermesse (think end-of-school-carnival with medieval reenactments in place of bouncy houses, wine in place of Sprite, and fancy cheese in place of cotton candy).

During the course of the evening, we ran into Noah’s very strict and mostly negative maîtresse who, for the first eight months, consistently wondered aloud to Marisa how Noah would ever survive in life. Last night, however, she had nothing but positive things to say about his recent activity in class, even going so far as wishing she could keep him another year. At the same time, Oliver and Sammy were spending the evening laughing, joking, and getting soaked by their well-established Franco-friends.

To the #littlefrenchiesmurfs, it’s just everyday life but to Marisa and myself it’s a series of small and welcome changes that when strung together make for what’s miraculous in this “best and worst” experience of our family's life to-date.

[1] Classe verte can last up to five days in another part of France when you’re in elementary school. Get a little older and the trips get longer and often you need a passport, maybe even a visa to participate.