Some of my childless friends tell me they are apprehensive about talking to children. What do you say? Well, talking about toys, TV and sweets are usually good ways “in” with kids, but so are questions like, “If you had a million pounds, what would you do with it?”, “If the world was made of chocolate, how much could you eat before you throw up?” or “If Dr. Who had to save you from certain death, what would he have to save you from?” usually do it. But how do you say it? Now that’s the minefield. Never, ever affect a “baby” voice for anyone over 2. They will hate your guts and plot your downfall forever. I’m not even joking. I have a friend who will forever be known as “Baby Tom” by my son on the basis that ONCE he talked to him like he was 2 when actually man, he was 4. It’s now five years later. Heinous crime or what.
The most important thing I’ve learned however in the last nine years is, no matter what a kid says, don’t bat an eyelid. Because then they will learn your weakness – that you’re just an adult and actually have no idea what is going on any more than the kid does. This is especially true when talking to kids who are not yours. It is your responsibility not to “um” and “aah” people, since if you do, you will make said kids realise all us parents are just feeling our way here, making a mess of it and pretending That Was The Plan All Along. You might not be a parent of course, but don’t let the side down.
So anyway. My husband’s brother and triplet Rob (are they twins if only two of them are in the same place at the same time? That’s a question for you. They don’t know either) came over yesterday. The males in my family have some kind of psychotic addiction to crazy golf, so as usual we went down to the putting green. I don’t play crazy golf, I’m above that kind of thing… But I do like to stand about and sigh a lot, whilst encouraging the baby to steal balls off the green on the sly (I’m the perfect wife).
During one particularly boring hole then, (I think it was called “The Switchback” – your ball goes over a wiggly part of the green, or at least that’s the plan: it more than likely comes back to you, what fun – that’s sarcasm in case any of you missed it) a random little girl came and sat next to me while I moped on some elfin-sized wall.
LITTLE GIRL: What’s your baby’s name?
LITTLE GIRL: So she’s called Lili?
ME: No, she’s called Lilirose.
LITTLE GIRL: But that’s two names.
ME: That’s right.
LITTLE GIRL: But you’re only supposed to have one name.
ME: But she’s got two names.
LITTLE GIRL: Is that because she’s a princess?
ME: (pause) Yes.
LITTLE GIRL: Where’s she a princess?
ME: In a land far away.
LITTLE GIRL: Why’s she here then?
ME: Because there’s a war.
LITTLE GIRL: Like on the news?
LITTLE GIRL: Does she have a castle?
ME: Dunno. It’s probably blown up now.
LITTLE GIRL: Oh yeah. ‘Cos of the war. Does she have a Polly Pocket glitter factory?
ME: She’s a princess. She can have anything she wants.
I love lying to children. One of my favourites is telling kids that if you put a McDonald’s chicken nugget in a matchbox and wait two months, it will turn into a real chicken. But it has to be McDonald’s, mind. Doesn’t work with Burger King.
Or the time I told my son that it’s so cold in Scotland, the UK has to be turned around once a year on a giant crane (they do it while we’re asleep, which is why we don’t feel it). The south then is in the north and the north is in the south – they have winter whilst we have summer and vice versa. He bought into this 100%, even writing about it in geography at school as if it was fact, telling his overworked teacher that if his Mum said it was true, then it must be. His teacher wrote in his book, “Your mum really needs to look at an atlas Alfie!”
Oh come on… What are you looking at me like that for?! We all do it, we’re writers. How can you resist? A child is perfect testing ground for stories – if they don’t believe it, then it MUST be crap.
So…What have you told your son/daughter/niece/nephew/friend’s kid?