I haven’t really considered Asterix The Gaul a parenting manual, but inspiration can sometimes come from the most unlikely of sources.
Lately, I’ve been having a tough time. The kids have been misbehaving and I haven’t been feeling well. One day, as I was watching my kids bring the house down for the zillionth time, I kept thinking to myself:
“Ils sont fous, ces enfants.” These kids are crazy.
To those of you who are not familiar, Asterix the Gaul is a comic series, the brain child of the brilliant Renee Goscinny. It features a fictional village in Gaul. They all begin with the words:
“All of Gaul is divided into three parts. No, four — for one small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the Roman invaders.”
The village’s little secret is a magic potion, usually prepared by the druid Getafix out of often hard to get ingredients. The potion grants superpowers and everyone can drink it except for Obelix who fell into the magic potion when he was a child. His best friend is the smart Asterix whose smart ideas often get both friends out of trouble (oh well that and the magic potion, obvioulsy).
Sometimes Asterix and Obelix go on missions to other countries, where they have even more adventures. The comic books make fun of national stereotypes (for example, the Goths are big and blonde, the British love their gardens and the Spanish cook everything in olive oil).
The names change depending on the language (for example the druid is sometimes known as Miraculix), and sometimes Goscinny alluded to political events or made fun of certain politicians.
Moreover, one of the books shows a parenting issue: for example when the Gauls visit Spain, the Spanish boy Pepe is shown to be very spoiled. “Then I’ll hold my breath until something bad happens to me!” at which the Romans who accompany him start begging him to stop and promise they will do everything he wants. I am not sure but it’s probably an insight into how the French view Spanish kids(as spoiled and badly behaved?) I don’t want to delve into this though. I’d rather share the many parenting wisdoms I found in this beloved comic of mine.
- Moms need a magic potion
The Gauls are not the only ones in need of a magic potion. Moms need superpowers as well, so understandably, we have our own sets of potions. You probably know what it is- and I’m sure you’re using it yourself. All the blogs write about it. Yes, you guessed it, it’s coffee and wine (or in my case tea and hot chocolate). Coffee is in the morning, to wake up. Wine is in the evening, to wind down. But it’s no wonder because parenting is damn hard and we can take any help we need.
- Arguments erupt at every opportunity
In the little village where Asterix lives, fights can happen at any given moment. All it takes it for someone to say to the village’s fishmonger Unhygenix (his wife by the way is called Bacteria): “Your fish is not fresh!” Unhygenix in turn, gets very upset and offended. “What did you say? My fish is not fresh?” And in mere seconds, the fight is in full blow. Now, take toddlers: they’re exactly the same. It takes one wrong word from you, the father or one of the siblings, and suddenly the situation goes from peaceful to catastrophic in a blink of an eye. And you just stand there wondering what the hell has just happened.
- But there is always a reason for a celebration
The beauty of the little Gaul village is that while their inhabitants fight a lot, they share a common goal, namely to defend themselves against the Romans, and they also love each other very much. Every comic book ends with a great feast with some spit-baked boar as the main attraction. It’s the same with children, really. They are intense, and they fight (with you and each other and everyone else), but the truth is that they love each other very much.
- When someone is being annoying, they get dealt with accordingly
Speaking of feasts, it’s not true that everyone is invited to the feast. For example, there seems to be a difference of opinions between Cacofonix, the village bard and the rest of the village. Cacofonix thinks he sings beautifully. The rest of the village thinks not only does he have no voice, but that said voice is a danger to the village’s peace. Therefore, poor Cacofonix has to spend the feast tied to a tree and gagged to ensure that he won’t sing. As a mother, I think this is somewhat extreme, but in the end, quiet is what counts, right? And when children are being annoying and get on everyone’s nerves despite being told, multiple times, to please be quiet, then even I think there need to be consequences. Maybe not tying up but something more appropriate, definitely.
- When everything goes wrong, just shake your head and say “Ils sont fous ces enfants.”
To the Gauls, the Romans (as well as all other cultures) are a strange bunch. Obelix comments on their weirdest customs with, “These Romans are crazy.” But it sounds so much better in French, “Ils sont fous ces Romains.” He wonders about the strange Roman customs, but doesn’t try to change them (although he doesn’t mind giving them a good beating). He knows he can’t change the Romans. His comment is of a more philosophical nature: “They’re strange but we love them anyway.” Yes, just like with kids.
Which brings me back to children. We can’t change much about our kids. I mean we as parents only have so much power over how the kids will turn out. Sure, we can shape them but we’re not magicians, we can’t make them something they’re not or don’t want to be. We can only do what I did: shake our heads, and say: “Ils sont fous, ces enfants.” And then hold your breath until something bad happens to you. I mean, if it works for them it has to work for you, right?
Cover design: By www.amazon.co.uk, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1900722