A pink taxi

A pink taxi

January 17, 2012

Petit Nicolas goes to the Pool

Has anyone read Le Petit Nicolas?

Never take your kid's word for what its worth. There is always more to it. They drag you into an activity and then before you know it: you are caught in the net. Captive!

My 7 year old daughter convinced me to volunteer as a "supervisor" for their weekly swimming pool outing. Swimming is my sport. School outings are my thing. I agreed to try it once.

The minute I found myself in the locker rooms with 30 girls (about 30 boys were in the boy's locker rooms), when all the girls stood in a disorganized, disheveled fashion, in their suits, with swim caps to put on and goggles to adjust, I went back some 40 years, to the era of Petit Nicolas.

Petit Nicolas is the quintessential French boy of the 60s. He is the protagonist of a series of books whose stories make you laugh to tears. Petit Nicolas has a group of friends: a rich kid, a nerd, a hungry kid, a clumsy one, a dreamer. Its Peanuts with French sauce. Petit Nicolas is the cool, popular kid who narrates. The funniest dynamics are the ones between the kids and adults, their supervisors, teachers, shop keepers, policemen. And here I was victimized by a same group of kids.

I came prepared with my shorts and flip flops. I thought my responsibility consisted of taking care of a single group of 15 kids: make sure they dress, don't slip, don't forget their things. I soon found out that I had been elected as the........swim coach!!!!!!!! I was going to be posted at a station where 4 groups of 15 kids would rotate every 8 minutes and I would teach them 4 skills!!!

How fortunate I am to be a natural born swimmer, to have taken lifesaving classes and to have been a very strict tutor. I know how the French system works and I was fortunate enough to know how to exercise discipline. Here I was standing at the deepest corner of the pool with 15 children in line: teaching them to step into the water by using the ladder. I had to insure safety, no slipping, no jumping, no hurrying. In addition, the technique had to be explained in a certain haste and encouragement had to be made as well.

It is self-rewarding to be around 60 seven year old kids. I had a wonderful time being a drill sergeant. The excitement of the kids is contagious. I didn't think much of the swimming lesson itself, its value because the children won't learn much from these drills, when each one will have the chance to do it once. But I believe in the lessons of camaraderie. Something the French school system has perfected since the days of Petit Nicolas!


  1. What a nice movie of Petit Nicolas that I watched with my grandchildren several times.The cutest part is when he gets a sibling and he cant sleep the night thinking his parents will give him away.In every family there is a little Nicola,and I am witnessing that everyday when my grandchildren are faced with the hard news: a new sibling has arrived.

  2. Le Petit Nicolas ended up becoming Le President de la France!