A colleague approaches my desk and I execute a rapid and discreet ALT+TAB.
“Where’s [the boss] hiding this time?”, she enquires.
“Uh, not sure, kitchen maybe, but he can’t be far away,” I reply vaguely, trying to remember if he had told me (as I was only half-listening, while sketching out a blog post in my head). Thankfully I catch sight of the top of his head in the stairwell. I point and say “THERE he is!”
I fight the urge to crawl under my desk and hide. The shame. I just went and used the wrong voice for those last three words.
Somehow they came out in that patronising voice, with exaggerated intonation and emphasis, which I find myself using when I speak to Tadpole.
It’s another of those things that I swore I would never do when I had a child, which fell by the wayside as soon as motherhood was upon me. I challenge anyone to try speaking normally to a toddler. The fact is that they do seem to learn faster if you use emphasis and repetition. And personally when I’m repeating and emphasizing I find it difficult not to adopt an annoying
failed actor’s children’s TV presenter’s voice. I often think I sound like a female version of Geoffrey on Rainbow, but it’s frankly enough effort to keep on repeating things in English every time she says them in French, without having to force myself to speak in a normal, grown-up voice as well.
Obviously speaking to an adult in that condescending tone could get me into trouble. I have drawn the parallel before between being a PA and babysitting, but when I greeted my boss on the phone the other day with an over emphatic “how are YOU?”, in what he immediately identified as my Tadpole voice, I definitely took that analogy one step too far. Luckily, being that he is a father of young children himself, he was quite understanding, and not a little amused.
My worst fear now is that the baby vocabulary that Mr Frog and the childminder use with Tadpole will insinuate its way into my French conversations. French toddlers use words like doudou (favourite teddy or comforter), bobo (a place where you hurt yourself), caca (poo), dodo (sleep) and lolo (milk). A bit like saying ‘doggy’ in English instead of dog.
I sincerely hope the day will never come when I say, bleary eyed and yawning one morning at the cockroach/coffee machine after yet another long evening spent in front of a computer screen, “Oh là là qu’est ce que j’ai envie de faire dodo là …“
The only thing more embarrassing than that, would be if I said it in my ‘Tadpole voice’.