Sophie picked out the clothes and shoes she wanted to wear (the green turtle t-shirt and blue shorts) - I was sort of hoping she'd pick a dress because I was sure everyone would tell ask about our "son" (they did). Then she walked out of the house and proudly announced (in Chinese) to ayi "Goodbye! I am going to school today! Mama and Papa are taking me to school because I am a BIG GIRL now." It's just as well we're going to have another baby. I keep getting reminded that we have a BIG GIRL now, that I almost feel sad about it.
As far as our BIG GIRL was concerned, Fabien and I had spent some weeks before discussing the concept of "school" in detail, so I was wondering how much of the message she'd have picked up.
Quite a lot it seems!
Fabien and I did all the "textbook" things, which is to settle her in an interesting activity in class (today it was cars and play-dough) say goodbye and tell her that we would come back to see her when school finished, and went out without coming back inside the classroom. Then we went around the class room where there was a one-way window where parents could observe the children without being seen by them. We had been "warned" by the principal that in her experience the kids usually had a harder time adapting if they knew their parents were still around.
Sophie was perfectly happy saying goodbye to us. She played with cars and trucks, a doctor kit and some dolls, and some wood blocks. I left just after the snack time, when I saw her eating like we don't feed her at home. She seemed content to observe the teachers and other kids around her and play quietly by herself.
The only glitch in the day was that she absolutely REFUSED to use the bathroom with any of the teachers. I had given her teachers "bunny rabbit" to suggest to her that she needed to go to the toilet, but they told me she thumped bunny rabbit on the head, pushed the teacher away and simply refused. She held it in until 12 when she saw Fab and me and immediately told us she needed to go, and the look of relief on her face! I think her little bladder was on the brink of exploding.
According to her teachers, she only cried once, that was at the end of the day when she was tired and her father and I were both late to pick her from school. We both got held up in the office (I am technically on maternity leave, but ...) and my poor darling had to watch all the other little children and their parents re-united.
When she didn't see us, the teacher said she burst into tears and asked (in Chinese) "that is Jarred's mama, this is Chloe's papa - where is Sophie's mama and papa?"
We were only 5 minutes late, but the teacher explained (rather reproachfully!) that all the parents were already waiting outside the classroom for half an hour. We felt a little criminal. This probably explained why she got away with having a chocolate croissant for lunch that she picked up herself from the French bakery.
The area around Sophie's school is like a small piece of France in the middle of Beijing. Fabien told me he was actually glad not to be living there - he felt it was just too weird - why move to another country if all you want to to do is try to re-create your own little village 10,000 km away? He is however very thankful for the yummy breads and pastries though (probably another reason why we picked this school!)
Anyway, if you think Sophie's was "abandoned" by her parents - don't need to feel too sorry for her - the moment she saw Fabien and me, she didn't want to leave the (fun and exciting) classroom, and wanted us to stay there and play with her.