If I had to describe Lauren in one word that totally sums her up right now it would be ‘opinionated’. In what feels like an overnight change, she has developed forceful and inflexible ideas about everything from food, to clothes, to acceptable activities.
So it was serendipitous that we’ve got a new book in Trotters called ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’. I highly recommend it. It’s controversial and you won’t agree with it all but it’s funny and thought provoking and definitely a step up from dull, dull, dull parenting books.
The main thrust of it is that French parents are much more disciplinarian than British or American parents. They insist their children do as they’re told and don’t accept no for an answer. A much used phrase is Ces’t moi qui decide or ‘it is me who decides’.
With this in mind, let’s take a recent example from my life.
Lauren and I are getting ready to go out. She’s strapped in to her trike and ready to go.
“No shoes. Wellies.” She says.
“No poppet, you don’t need wellies it’s not raining and we’re not going on the common to play”.
“NO, Lauren. You’re wearing pink and your wellies are red so they won’t match.”
“WELLIES!! Uhuuuh huh” cry, whinge.
“Lauren, come on, don’t be silly. You won’t look pretty and if anyone from work sees me, I’ll get sacked for crimes against style.”
“Wellies, wellies, no shoes, noooooo shooooes.”
“Okay. I’ll get your wellies.”
Now, I am guessing that the average French Maman may not have given in at this point and on reading this would tut tut and thank goodness she wasn’t so weak. She would also not have soaked a cheese and potato pie in ketchup just to get it down her child (WHO doesn’t like chesses and potato pie?! SO fussy nowadays) and then had to suffer the consequences for several days afterwards when every dish, other than pudding or soup, would be refused until the “KETSUPS, KETSUPS” was provided.
And I think Maman’s probably right in some ways but not all. Maybe having said no, I should have stuck to it but I probably shouldn’t have said no in the first place. Why shouldn’t she wear her wellies? She loves them so much. We have to put them on over her sleepsuit in the morning otherwise she won’t eat breakfast and she even wanted to wear them in the bath last night! Now that would have been ridiculous but where’s the harm? I say, don’t say no for the sake of it. Going along with the madness is more fun anyway.
Probably not unsurprisingly, all this choosiness has coincided with her learning lots of new words all at once. I had a proud moment on Sunday when at Chiswick House she pointed to a bird on the river and shouted “coot”. I was impressed, as was her father. He still can’t remember the difference between a coot and a moorhen even though I’ve told him a zillion times.
Later that day, relating the tale to Lauren’s granddad, thinking he could share in the pride, he says disparagingly,
“Well, someone’s obviously taught her that, haven’t they?”
Erm, yes, clearly. We weren’t suggesting that Lauren has psychic powers, or that she had gleaned the name through Mother Nature by reading universal vibrations. Of course someone’s taught her! I was just happy that the admittedly rather intensive ornithology tutoring she’s had has paid off. That’s all. Gosh, I thought everything was getting easier with grade inflation these days and that would be enough to get a B in GCSE biology but it seems she’s going to have to work much harder to impress her nearest and dearest. We’ve taught her ‘pangolin’ for next time, which as you’re surely aware is an armoured animal from the tropics. If that doesn’t impress him nothing will!