It was a grey morning, but we were thankful for the absence of rain and unexpected warmth as we strolled along the streets of Paris. My six-year-old daughter ran ahead—a pink birthday balloon tied to her backpack, a spring in her step and a smile on her face.
For months it had been her desire to visit Paris for her 6th birthday, ever since she saw some photos of La Tour Eiffel being built as she flicked through the pages of an architecture book. “I want to go to the top for my birthday, please!” she said. And who are we as parents who thrive on teaching our daughter about the world—in the world—to not agree?! So, there we were, strolling through the streets of Paris on the morning of our daughter’s birthday, filled with excitement for a few days of croissants, landmarks, art, and hopefully the opportunity for some language practice. As it happened, we didn’t have to wait long.
As every parent will know, when a child sees a park, wherever that park may be, there is no way you can walk past it without having a play. So, we sat down on a bench and watched as our daughter ran about a small residential play-park and waited nervously to see what she would do when joined by two little French girls of the same age. We held our breath, although we needn’t have. “Bonjour !” she said, with surprising ease and just a little shyness. “Bonjour !” they replied…. And that was it, off they all went together, swinging from apparatus and pushing each other down the slide.
I felt so proud to stand there watching my daughter, at ease in another country with another language, giving her name and asking theirs, playing happily in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Of course, we are all studying French together as a family, so it would have been rude to not attempt to speak to the girls’ father, which we duly did and were amazed that in—albeit broken—French, we were able to explain what we were doing in Paris, that it was our daughter’s birthday, and where we planned to visit. Then, with a cheery au revoir from us, and a Bon anniversaire ! from them, we headed off with a spring in all of our steps, balloon blowing in the breeze, to see what else Paris had to offer.