petite anglaise

February 9, 2006

remembrance of things past

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:32 pm

The progress Tadpole is making with the English language never ceases to astonish me.

Lately I have witnessed the sudden addition of the past tense to her delightful little sentences, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Sadly, while her grammar may be correct, the information she volunteers is at times a little sketchy, or, in some cases, just plain untrue.

For example, Tadpole arrives home from her weekend away with Mamie and Papy on Monday evening, and the first thing to cross the threshold of my apartment is a proudly brandished hand bearing a rather ragged, grubby-looking pink plaster. Just in case I have failed to notice, she exclaims “Look mummy! Look at my hand! I’ve got a plaster on!”

“Have you got a bobo? How did you get that?” I enquire. Not in an ohmygodyou’vehurt yourselfhowcoulddaddyletthathappenonhiswatch sort of way, you understand. I am simply curious to see whether she is able to explain how it happened.

“Yes. It was red and wet,” she elaborates, helpfully.

“Oh, I see, it was bleeding, was it?”

“Yes, my finger was bleeding.”

“How did you hurt it?”

“I did it on the floor,” she replies, vaguely.

Clearly I’m not going to get the specifics without putting words into her mouth, so I resign myself to just not knowing. As it happens, Mr Frog is none the wiser, as no-one actually saw how this mysterious (and so tiny it is barely visible to the human eye) bobo was inflicted.

For an illustration of how good my daughter is at lying in the past tense, I only have to ask her what she had for lunch at the childminder’s house on any given day of the week.

“I ate some Chocolate!”

“Chocolate? For lunch.”


“Nothing else?”

“No, I had just chocolate.”

I doubt it, somehow.

So comfortable with the past tense is my Tadpole, that she is now using it masterfully as ammunition to get her own way. Again, with somewhat sparing use of truth.

“Right, I’m making pasta for dinner,” I say firmly, making sure that it sounds like a statement, and not at all like a question that could possibly be answered with the dreaded “no” word.

“I can’t have pasta. I had that yesterday,” comes the (total factually incorrect) reply.

This tactic can be used in a variety of situations, and I have now seen most of the possible permutations: “I wore/ate/did that/read that book/went there/saw daddy/went to see tata yesterday.


But the thing that strikes fear into my heart this morning, as I leave the childminder’s house, is hearing Tadpole’s voice piping up behind her closed front door.

Maman, elle a dit que…” At which point her voice fades away altogether as they move from the hallway into another room, and try as I might, ear shamelessly pressed to door, I can hear no more.

Given her apparent ability to fabricate monstrous lies with alarming ease, I dare not imagine what followed.


  1. What a truly sweet and funny post! I always found that children of around Tadpole’s age were the most scary to babysit, for this very reason. They really do have a horrible tendancy to make very convincing but totally false statements, normally to the detriment of the minder’s reputation. And then there’s the alarming honesty that children are sometimes compelled to bestow upon anyone listening (normally the mother, right in front of me) such as ‘You’ve got lots of spots on your face’ (a charming 6 year old who later stole 700 francs from my purse to buy her mother presents – they had parent-child issues) and ‘Have you got a baby in your tummy?’ (her equally lovely 2 year old sister.) I was a little chubby at the time, with leftover-from-late-teen skin problems. Really helped my confidence, as you can imagine.

    Comment by redlady — February 9, 2006 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Very little grasp of the difference between the truth and lies, the under 4s… perhaps under 5s would be more accurate! I have a colleague who is researching this and the children she works with are, to a man, unable to own up to having broken the rules in a difficult game. She briefs the parents about this before starting but they seem to be universally shocked. She has taken to not letting them go home until they (the parents!) have calmed down about it.

    A friend’s daughter, at two-and-a-half, thought that all future occasions could be encompassed in “in a minute”. Anything from “We’re having dinner in a minute” to “Granny’s coming [from England to the S. of Spain] in a minute”.

    Comment by katie — February 9, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  3. “… je dois manger du chocolat pour le déjeuner.”

    unfortunately, unlike Tadpole, I cannot work the tenses.

    I can bullshit though, almost at her level.

    Comment by Mr Andrew — February 9, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

  4. Oh Petie….heeheehee:-)..your tales bring back memories of all my ones learning that great Past Tense. ‘Yesterday’ = anytime in the past two years….
    And it is easily forgotten, yesterday (really!) I was informed by one of the twins the we ‘never see nanna and papa – ever’. But you saw them at Christmas? ‘Yes, but that was ages ago – never!’
    And as for the monstrous lies – wait for the muddy footprints/crayon coloured wall and try asking ‘Qui a fait ca???’…..and the booted, crayon holding tot answers ‘No-one’
    (or as an imaginative alternative ‘The cat’)

    …..trots off to clean up cat’s muddy boot-prints from kitchen floor…..

    Comment by Morbihan Princess — February 9, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

  5. That sounds like my daughter, she likes to tell little white lies but its always about her brother and he’s standing behind her going it wasn’t me it was her. Kids are so funny sometimes and sometimes you can’t believe what comes out of their monuths.

    Comment by Growing Up — February 9, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  6. How funny is this?! I just thought that was the CUTEST Tadpole story…lol. Esecially the ending! I’m imagining you pressed against the door trying to listen. OMG, this is just too funny. It made me laugh this morning. Thanks Petite! :0)

    Comment by Dina — February 9, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  7. Don’t want to worry you but the fine line between truth and fiction can take some years to be drawn in quite a lot of children. I remember the introductory talk a ise head teacher used to give to parents of children starting school at nearly 5, which ended with “We promise not to believe everything they say about you if you promise not to believe everything they say about us” !!!!!

    Comment by Sandy — February 9, 2006 @ 2:20 pm

  8. My nephew would do this- Would tell you a whole elaborate story as if it happened yesterday when it actually was months before. . .

    Comment by Nicole — February 9, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

  9. In the US several years ago we had a spate of people believing the little kids, resulting in quite a few day care workers still sitting in prison.
    But that was yesterday.

    Comment by joeinvegas — February 9, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  10. My son (almost three) says “already” ALL THE TIME. “Adam not go school today, Mama! Goed to school already!”

    Sometimes we tell him, “No, you didn’t.” And sometimes we just giggle and move on. It does get a little old, though. :)

    Developmentally, most kids this age (5 and under, as noted above) really think that whatever they say is true — they think they can make the muddy bootprints have come from the cat.

    Comment by christie — February 9, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

  11. Perhaps you could work out the same arrangement with the childminder that my son’s preschool teacher offered me many years ago:

    “I’ll only believe half of what he tells me about you if you only believe half of what he tells you about me.”

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — February 9, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

  12. The truly scary part about this post is that Tadpole is displaying better English skills than many people here in the U.S. do…….at times, including myself. ;-)

    Before you know it, she will be teaching English to other kids when she starts kindergarten. Of course, one needs to hope that her teachers don’t understand English, as that could be problematic in later years if she gets angry at them………..

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — February 9, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

  13. Morbihan princess reminds me of my son who learned to write his name when he was about three (it only has three letters, so it was easy). We’d then find it written on walls, furniture etc, and when we asked him about it he would invariably say “but how did you know it was me?”…

    Comment by Rufie — February 9, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  14. That’s awesome! If only she were tall enough to reach a chalkboard, she could now successfully teach her own class of Japanese businessmen at Berlitz.

    Comment by Sarah — February 9, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

  15. Some people never grow out of this phase; but it is the sign of a great imagination.

    Comment by Caitlinator — February 9, 2006 @ 6:21 pm

  16. I’ve heard that children under the age of 3 or 4 often lie because they are learning what is acceptable and what is not. I’ve also heard that sometimes young children have a hard time knowing the difference between the truth and a lie.

    Amusing story though! I wonder what she’ll come up with next. Chocolate for all meals!

    Comment by Rebeca — February 9, 2006 @ 6:45 pm

  17. Two year olds seem to have a particular knack for lying. Or you could just chalk it up to a great imagination. My best friend’s youngest (now 5) was especially good at it and like you, her mother lived in fear of what falsehoods her toddler would tell OTHER people about her.

    Have courage! She really will grow out of it eventually.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — February 9, 2006 @ 7:08 pm

  18. Hmmm, this is coming from the person who threatened naked dancing and Scissor Sisters? Petite, it seems like you’ve got a little of your own coming back! :)

    Comment by Skorky — February 9, 2006 @ 7:49 pm

  19. Whoops, cross dressing and Scissor Sisters. Must perform fact-check before clicking “submit.”

    Comment by Skorky — February 9, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

  20. I wouldn’t worry too much about Tadpole’s lying, Petite. She is sure to be a fabulous fiction writer and will keep her maman sitting pretty for life.

    Comment by Lauren — February 9, 2006 @ 10:37 pm

  21. I also don’t think she’s doing it *all* on purpose. At her age, she has no real sense of time, so “yesterday” may just mean “in the past” to her. Now about that chocolate…:)

    Comment by buzzgirl — February 9, 2006 @ 11:05 pm

  22. Yeah i really envy Tadpoles perfect tense formations…I regularly fail to get it right in both French and English…
    Its surprised me aswell how quickly shes managed to figure out that to mummy she speaks English, but to the French she speaks French…she sounds incredibly bright. Its surprising how she knows which words belong to which language, too. Different sounds…but someone so tiny picking up on its amazing:)

    Comment by Maxi — February 10, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  23. If Tadpole won’t eat pasta/wear that etc. because she says she did that ‘yesterday’, at least you can turn that to your advantage by refusing her chocolate – “but you won’t want that; you told me, you had it yesterday”. It won’t convince her but it might take her a while to think of a good counter-argument.

    Comment by Z — February 10, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

  24. Bless! What a beautiful post.

    Comment by sean — February 11, 2006 @ 3:19 am

  25. Regarding your child’s lying she is quite obviously a budding politician to tell lies on such a scale, encourage her behaviour as much as you can or smother her, depending on whether you care for politicians or not.

    Comment by Jonathan Sawyer — February 11, 2006 @ 8:39 am

  26. imperative and past tense. now you are truly screwed.

    Comment by nardac — February 11, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

  27. I think Buzzgirl had it right, it’s just no accurate sense of time. Also it’s fun at that age saying things just to see what happens. Where did the rule that what you say has to be true come from?

    Comment by varske — February 11, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

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    And thanks for the anti-valentine link, I’ved posted on this one:

    Comment by Ludovic Windsor — February 13, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

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    Merci !
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    Comment by Doutriaux — February 13, 2006 @ 7:30 pm

  30. Psst.

    Comment by David Weman — February 13, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

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