Tadpole and I walk hand in hand up the rue de Rebeval, bound for home and, as usual, I try to extract some meaningful information from my daughter about what she has been up to that day.
Our conversation goes something like this.
Me: “So, what did you do at school today sweetie?”
Tadpole: “Er… something nice”
Me: “Something nice. I see. Did you draw some pictures?”
Me: “Read some books?”
Me: “What were the books about?”
Tadpole: “Er… I can’t remember.”
Me: “And what did you have for lunch?”
Tadple: “Chips. And chocolate.”
It is like extracting blood from a stone, pulling teeth or trying to establish whether Mr Frog has a girlfriend. A meeting with her maîtresse last Saturday was enlightening: we were told that all children tend to be reluctant to discuss what goes on at school with papa and maman. Maybe the school day is so action packed that it all becomes a blur in her tiny head. Or she so enjoys having her own little jardin secret that she resents my trying to peep over the top of the hedge. Whatever the reason, it is clear that nothing more is forthcoming.
I have a fair idea of what a typical day comprises: play, some supervised activities, lunch, storytime, sleep, a stint outdoors, and the fascinatingly named motricité sessions held in the school hall. This appears to be a typically French, scientific sounding word for PE, which includes circuit training and teetering about on stilts made from upturned buckets with string handles.
There is however one part of Tadpole’s day that I can spy on from the comfort of my own home. Canteen lunches are detailed on a very helpful website. There is week 38 in all its glory. Accompanied by an illustration of a dragon flying through the sky with two suitcases in his hands. Chips and chocolate indeed. On the day in question the menu was, in fact:
* * * * *
Rôti de dinde (roast turkey)
Gratin de blettes (gratin of ??????)
* * * * *
Petit-Suisse (sort of fromage frais thing)
The mind boggles. My very own Little Miss Fussy has been busy eating things I don’t even have the wherewithall to translate. My first thought on “blettes” was cockroaches – until, happily, I realised I was confusing “blettes” with “blattes”. Extensive web research yielded “Swiss chard”. Now let me see, I may have tasted it once, in Nice, in the filling of my ravioli niçoise, but until I looked on google images, I couldn’t have told you whether it takes the form of a bean, a root vegetable or a leaf. Tadpole eats Swiss chard? Swiss chard gratin? My daughter, the same child who refuses to mix peas and carrots (canned) in the same forkful? Who invariably turns up her nose at any item she has never tasted before? And which sadistic dinner lady dreamt up the idea of feeding beetroot to 3 year olds? Clearly one who won’t have to wash their clothes afterwards.
I suppose I should be thankful that Tadpole appears to be getting a balanced diet, something Jamie Oliver would no doubt work himself into a lather of enthusiasm over.
Later that evening, I decide to give the interrogation one last try, fortified with this new information.
Me: “So, did you have some beetroot for lunch? Some little purple squares? Some betteraves?”
Tadpole: “No, I had chips and chocolate. And cereals. And after, I had a strawberry milkshake!”
I can’t help giggling. Not only is she maintaining her barefaced lie, but now the little monster is embroidering around it, adding increasingly implausible embellishments.
Tadpole: “Mummy! Why you laughing?”
I snort apple juice out of my nose.
Tadpole: “Is it because I talking rubbish?”