Je pousse, tu pousses, elle pousse …

November 3, 2009

“Stop pushing me!” Like a miniature Rambo, my daughter has developed language to let potential aggressors know that she is not to be messed with. The only problem is that no one has even touched her.

She has several of these little gems, tailor-made to convince a stranger that the right and Christian thing to do is to call the police, Social Services and Pudsey Bear this very minute – another favourite is, “no, daddy!” Add this to the tantrums and you have what can sometimes feel like manipulation. 

But it is still an overwhelmingly positive experience being her dad. I am proud of her. i used to think that that was something you said when a child (or other mental inferior you wished to patronise) had done something good. But it’s not. Not in this case, anyway. It means, “I’m proud of her” in the way you might be “proud” of a new suit, or the stabiliser-free bike you’ve just been given for Christmas. It’s not conditional on something you’ve done or achieved – it’s something that’s yours, that just IS, and it’s so beautiful and awe-inspiring and all-round brilliant that all you want to do is show it off with a big stupid smile on your face. 

As it happens, though, I’m proud of the stuff she does, too. She is speaking proper French now – by which I mean, she is choosing (to talk to me and not to talk to her mother) recognisable French words and matching them consistently to appropriate objects or concepts. Which I think is pretty impressive, actually. She is even starting to string them together occasionally.

There are issues around pronunciation – initial French “r”s get dropped, so that a pink dress becomes a “obe ose” – but I’m fairly confident that there are a few French kids out there with the same issue, given that the French “r” is like Kenneth Williams to the English “r”‘s Sid James.

Likewise, she mixes up “bleu” and “vert” – but then she’s also mixing “blue” and “green” so that’s not so much a linguistic problem as a conceptual problem. Or maybe an eye problem – though she’s yet to express any interest in becoming a sniper or cartographer so it’s early days to be worrying about that …

So, Piaf, if one day you read this, “je suis fier de toi et l’ai toujours été.

“Now, please, can you say the word and get Esther Rantzen off my back?”


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