Is it just the fact that someone told me once that the French find their families important, or is it really all over these streets of Paris—the truthfulness of that belief? There are children everywhere, much more a part of the streets of Paris than I’ve ever recognized in London, or Los Angeles or even Provo. In American cities and towns, children are hidden away at home; but Parisians live their lives and let their children be a part of them. They take them everywhere, in strollers, and on walks, and they listen to their every word, and take them to play afterschool in the park down the street. So attentive. Parisian children are so very loved and encouraged in that love.
I watched a family walk toward me on Rue Vavin as I walked home from church. A little boy, less than two years old, but walking, had a hand in each parents arm, and it was not the mother only who was attentive, but the father as well, as the opened the door to their apartment building, and walked him inside. They let go of his hands for a moment, and he wandered between two decorative pillars inside the hallway and sat down between them, stuck in the crevice, smiling proudly. His mother, patient and attentive, laughed at her son, paying him mind that he was clever, and she knew it just as well as he.
I see fathers in parks with their children always; children are not the woman’s responsibility, but a family responsibility. At home it seems you only see American fathers with their older sons—when their sons are old enough to play a sport, be taken to the park. This does not seem the case in Paris. Rather, fathers take their daughters and their very young children out into the city. Fathers have a place, even with babies. And they are attentive to their daughters as well as their sons. And older siblings too, play a very large role. I sat in church today and watched a girl who was between seven and nine carry around her younger brother who was hardly old enough to speak. He had a pacifier and attached to the pacifier was a rag he could hold onto. He squealed when she put him down. She was so very attentive to him, holding him and taking him where he wanted to go, reading him and his interests. She taught him how to stick out his tongue, and she kissed him often. “Ça c’est qui?” she asked him over and over of a picture of Christ. “Jésus” she would answer, and he would repeat her with some semblance of sound of the answer.