Raising Bi-Lingual Kids in London with Severine Loram

10 Jul

I met Severine in college and it was hard not to instantly fall in love with her seemingly effortless style and charm. After college, she went on to study at the London School of Economics where she met her husband. Having grown up both in America and in France, I was interested to hear her thoughts on bi-lingual childhood and raising kids in a country in which she did not grow up. I am thrilled to share with you a peek into her life in London and I must say, even after two children, her style and charm are still completely inviting and inspiring. Plus, her kids are quite possibly the cutest children you have ever seen.

Q: Tell us about your family – who lives here?

My husband Paul, our two children Violette (3.5 years) and Félix (20 months), our golden retriever Lola and myself.

Q: Where do you live? Will you tell us the story of how it came to be yours?

We live in an Edwardian house in Fulham, a leafy part of South West London. We moved into our house just 2 months before Violette was born and as I was planning a home birth, I was desperate to move in and get settled before the birth. We were also very lucky to find a house walking distance from a fantastic bilingual “maternelle” that Violette now attends and Félix will attend next year. Our neighborhood is very bilingual, which was one of the main reasons we wanted to move here.

Q: How did you decide to live in the city? Why did you choose London?

I initially left New York to pursue a Masters at London School of Economics. I wasn’t planning on staying long term, but I met Paul and 10 years later, the rest is history!

Q: Now that you have a child, has it changed your outlook on living in the city? How has it benefited you as a parent?

My view on London has changed quite a bit since having Vivi & Félix. We spend a lot of time in our local parks, meeting friends in Richmond Park for a walk among the deer herds, or exploring the countryside around London. We have fantastic playgrounds in Fulham, many of which have been recently renovated. I love that we live on a street with two big parks at either end and in 30 minutes (by bus) you can be in Central London. London is a wonderful place to have children as it is very green yet there is also so much happening every weekend on a cultural level. I subscribe to a great website that sends you a weekly email with everything that’s going on in London for children.

Q: What is the most difficult part about living in a foreign country as a parent? What is the most amazing?

I don’t feel that I live in a “foreign” country as I lived here for a bit when I was younger and many of my family members live in London. That said, I definitely don’t feel British and my husband is often making fun of my “americanisms”! I love living in such an international place. I love that in our local playground, people are speaking French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, etc…

Q: You come from a varied background – you grew up in Washington, D.C., Paris and New York and now live in London…where do you consider “home?”

I have quite a bit of nostalgia for the States, having lived there for almost 18 years, but I would say that “home” for me is now with my husband and children. We may not always live in London, but I will always feel at home when I am with them.

Q: Are there any concrete things you miss about the States or France?

With regards to the States, I miss my childhood friends, who I don’t get to see as often as I would like, and Mexican food. It is so difficult to find good Mexican food in London! As for France, I get to travel there often so I don’t feel as deprived. But, I would say French pharmacies are the best in the world, my family and of course the delicious food!

Q: You grew up bilingual. Are you teaching your kids different languages as well? How does one go about doing that?

I try my best to speak to Vivi & Félix in French, but this is sometimes tricky as many of our friends are English-speaking. When I am alone with them we only speak in French, but as a family with Paul we speak in English. We listen to a lot of French music and occasionally I allow them to watch French movies and TV Shows. Violette is now in a bilingual school so that has made a big difference! I would love for them to add a third language as well, but for now we are focusing on French and English.

Q: How do you incorporate your background (American/French) into your family life? Is this important for your kids to understand?

My husband is British and I am French/American so it is quite an interesting mix! I think we both bring aspects of our cultures to the table and our kids experience a mix of all 3. It is very important for me that our kids understand and feel at home in French culture. We are immersed in Anglophone culture living in London so I try to create a balance for them.

Q: Do you find you are adapting the English way of raising a child or are you keeping your American/French ways intact? What are some of the more “English” ways of childrearing?

This is such an interesting question as I am often talking about this with the French moms at school. My kids are on a British schedule in terms of eating/sleeping. I give them their dinner quite early around 5:30pm and they are in bed by 7:30pm. I also give them their bath after dinner whereas my French friends give their children a bath before dinner and do dinner and bed later in the evening. On the other hand, I always left my babies to cry a little instead of picking them up immediately and they both learned to self-soothe quite early and now sleep 11-12 hours a night which I think is more in line with the French way of childrearing. I also only cook one meal for the whole family so that my kids are exposed to many different flavors and textures. They don’t have to finish what is on their plates, but they do have to taste it. Even if they don’t like a particular dish, I will still make it again as it takes time for them to acquire a taste.

Q: From the few photos I have seen of your house, I love the design and aesthetics. What’s your favorite feature in your home? What makes you the happiest about it? Also, what are you dying to change?

I love my kitchen. It is very light and airy which I love! We have concertina doors that open out onto the garden so the kids can play outside while I am cooking. We also have a summerhouse at the bottom of our garden that I am in the process of turning into an arts & crafts space for the kids to get messy! My husband and I both love interior design and are constantly changing/updating things in our house. Our dream is to buy a piece of land and build a house from scratch. At the moment we are on the hunt for some new art work for our living room. I am also still putting up the finishing touches to the kid’s rooms. I just put up a “Love Mae” sticker branch with birds above Violette’s bed which she loves!

Q: What’s your basic philosophy on living with kids?

Survival! Just kidding, I am trying to enjoy them when they are still so little and savor the good parts as well as the tough parts. I keep a blog of our family life to try and capture all of the little moments. It all seems to be flying by so fast! My main philosophy is to try not to sweat the small stuff and to remember that it is all just a phase and before we know it they will have changed, but this can be hard sometimes!

Q: Do you partake in adventure? How do you bring it into your family life?

Paul takes each of the kids on mini adventures around London at the weekends. They hop on a bus or the tube and end up at a museum/local attraction/restaurant. He films a large part of the day and then cuts it into a little mini movie with music for the kids to watch later – they love it! We are also going on a two-week adventure to Denmark this summer. We’ve never been before but both love Scandinavia (the design, the landscape, the culture) and are really excited to check it out. We are taking a big boat overnight to the West Coast of Denmark and have rented a little summerhouse 1 hour north of Copenhagen on a beach. We will have our car with us so are hoping to do quite a bit of exploring!

Q: What are some of your hobbies/free-time activities? Does living where do you shape these activities?

I feel much better when I’ve exercised so I try to do some sort of cardio 3-4 times a week and both of the kids love swimming so I take them to the pool twice a week.

Q: What are your family’s values – what is important to teach your children?

Love, empathy, a sense of curiosity and appreciation for good food! We also laugh a lot as a family…

Q: If you had a magic wand, what would be one thing you would change or improve?

More sunshine in London!

Q: Any favorite products so far when it comes to home life or baby rearing?

In terms of baby rearing my ergo (baby carrier) has been a lifesaver, especially when Félix was born and Vivi was still so little. I have used it from teeny tiny baby to toddler and I love that you can carry it on your front and your back. I would also say our play kitchen has been a big hit, both Vivi & Félix love playing with it and endless meals/drinks are prepared in it daily.

Q: Any future dreams/goals for your home or family?

I would love for us to continue to travel as a family. I keep an on-going list of places to explore. Next on our list is South-West France which we are hoping to discover next yea

Thank you to Severine for sharing! (all photos are from Severine’s own collection)

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One Response to “Raising Bi-Lingual Kids in London with Severine Loram”

  1. Brooke July 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Makes me miss living abroad! I LOVE the kid-friendly ‘world map’ on the wall for the kids. LOVE!

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