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?
This week I’ve been on a mission to teach my daughter to respond to just about any question about why she’s doing something by saying, “Cos that’s how I roll.” She’s six.
Magic! Think I will instruct my boy to do the same. Unfortunately, when he was learning to talk I was still at home with my Mum and Dad and multiple younger siblings (since I was a “gymslip mum” and all that) so my teen siblings taught him every choice swear word and rude phrase you can imagine, so he’s a little like Ray Winstone in SEXY BEAST at times.
“it’s so cold in Scotland, the UK has to be turned around once a year on a giant crane”
Ha, that’s pretty funny. I don’t have any kids around me to tell lies to, but I do like playing tricks on adults…
When somebody’s mobile rings I like to pretend it’s mine, and pick up an avocado (or whatever other vaguely phone-sized object there is lying around) and pretend to have a serious conversation. Then I pass the avocado to whoever I’m with and say, “It’s my mother, she wants a quick word…”
They nearly always take the avocado and hold it to their ear in confusion.
Oh, and I like your blog by the way. I just started my own filmmaking / writing blog and am on a mission to find others in the blogosphere.
when I was little someone told me that if you boil an egg and keep it on top of your wardrobe for 7 years, it will turn into an amber
Anonymous – clearly the person who told you that was making it up, it’s DOUBLE that, 14 years. No wonder your egg didn’t turn into amber! ; )
Annie – welcome aboard! Love your avacado story, will have to give that a go myself. I will add you to my links ASAP.
My hatchling isn’t even 2 yet. He doesn’t listen to a damn word I say already so I could tell him anything and know I’d be ignored.
Are you just trying to justify the fact that you fill your children’s heads with utter lies that may scar them for life or undermine their faith in human nobilty forever just for a cheap laugh Lucy?
Well count me in on the guilty verdict, my poor niece suffered badly. She’s 19 now and has a baby herself. Kind of makes me think I need to on with this having kids thing…
Not so much lie, as teach them to be utter cynics and not believe a word of TV, adverts, the Press, teachers, anyone in authority etc etc. Real rebels.
I love listening to them pulling adverts to pieces.
“That doesn’t make sense!”
“Those two things aren’t connected!”
And we always tell them the truth to any question at the level they’ll understand. (Which for the 16 year old is more than us, so it’s educational.)
I have to admit the 10 year old son asks some pretty weird questions, so I just lie completely deadpan, then start exaggerating until he realises and we start laughing.
I’ve never even lied about Christmas — let’s face it, the presents just arrive suddenly and somebody has to bring them, right?
Just the usual parental survival ones.
The mummy gene means I can look in their eyes and read their minds. So saying their sibling ran onto their fist aint gonna work mate.
And we all have the family chocolate genes but mine is bigger so they don’t nick the chocolate, ever.
Convinced my little sister that if anyone ever put their finger in her bellybutton, she would explode.
Told my nephew that the journey home would be quicker if he kept asking “are we there yet?” :0
Your husband is a triplet? Cor.
DD just became my hero. must remember that for future use on the godson.
and what about the corkers kids tell us?? and always with such straight faces. having looked after way too many kids since i started babysitting at the age of about 12 or 13, i’ve heard a lot. one of my faves would have to be the six year old showing me photos of a past holiday, one of which was of a shipwreck: “yes, that’s the titanic. my daddy dived down and found a ruby in it and brought it up.” and then went off on some spiel about everything they bought with said ruby.
oh, and of course the classics: “yes i’ve brushed my teeth” and “of course i’ll go to bed after dr who”…