petite anglaise

July 3, 2006


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:33 pm

TGV Paris-Angouleme, Friday 30 June

Tadpole heaves the armrest up and down violently, watching my face intently, wondering when I will crack. I am biding my time, because she has already done the high pitched screechy crying thing twice in the space of the last hour and there is only so much I, or any of my fellow passengers, can take. She hasn’t had a nap today, and it shows. I am utterly drained after all the dashing around this past week.

We are both on exceedingly short fuses.

The carriage is full. Behind me, a young man is making a loud tutting noise, doubtless for my benefit. I silently cast an evil spell, which if it works, will ensure that he has many train journeys with tantrum riddled offspring in his future. Only then will he fully comprehend the answer to the question he is currently asking himself: “why can’t she keep that child under control?”

Finally the armrest bangs just one time too many, and I feel an over-taut nerve snapping.

“Right! Enough! No more banging! Play with your Dora stickers and leave the seat alone!”

Cue high pitched screechy crying.

The thing is, I know full well that I am not being a good parent right now. That what I should be doing, is finding some means of distracting my daughter, instead of growling “stop that horrible noise right now!”

But knowing what you should be doing and summoning the willpower to do so are two very different things.

I haul Tadpole to her feet and set off in the direction of the buffet car. Her face is covered in a mixture of felt tip pen and angry tears.

I don’t know about Tadpole, but I for one need chocolate.

TGV Angouleme-Paris, Sunday 2 July

The train is full, but I barely notice. A part of me is still lying by the pool, one leg and one arm grazing the cool water, wearing my favourite dark brown bikini, purchased in a Givenchy solde privée years ago, and now, miraculously, a perfect fit once more. I wonder, idly, if anyone else has ever inspected toddler stools for pebbles whilst wearing a Givenchy bikini.

Tadpole chatters excitedly about her weekend, which was mostly spent wearing Nemo armbands and shrieking “maman! regarde! ch’suis une petite sirène! I’m a mermaid!” and trotting about after her two little golden haired playmates.

I pull out my camera and we look back at the photographs of the weekend.

“ROAR!” growls Tadpole, as I show her a snap of her royal highness in full tiger facepaint. She gnaws my cheek, mock hungrily, and shouts “mummy, I’m going to eat you all up!”

I cower back in my seat, pulling a mock horrified face, which elicits the expected giggle.

“But… if you eat me all up, there’ll be no more mummy, and THEN what will you do?” I enquire, in a worried voice.

“When you are gone,” says Tadpole carefully, levelly, navigating her tenses expertly, “I won’t have to speak English. Any. More.”

I am lost for words.


  1. She’s adorable! :)

    Comment by w — July 3, 2006 @ 10:30 pm

  2. hi petite,
    glad you had an enjoyable weekend.
    i discovered ur blog this weekend n hv to admit i’ve become quite engrossed in it over the last few days.
    look for fwd to reading ur next post.
    rgds frm tropical london

    Comment by MissC — July 3, 2006 @ 10:34 pm

  3. Have you thought about dropping her off in London and leaving her there, she’ll soon find out it’s not only maman who speaks English… only joking of course, she’s gorgeous on that photo. In your post, it just goes to show that a relaxed mum is better than a stressed one, so the problem on Friday wasn’t you, it was your just that your energy tanks needed a refill.

    Comment by Paris Lights — July 3, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  4. My family move to France this year, including my niece and nephew (Elle 2 yrs, Samuel 9 mths). God it’ll be pretty shockin that I won’t be able to speak French at all and they’ll be fluent.
    Kid’s can be cruel without seemingly being aware.


    PS. New to this. Did I put the right thing in the URI window?

    Comment by Kieran — July 3, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

  5. Petite,

    I discovered your blog about a week ago. My hubby has been reading your blog for awhile and suggested I take a look.

    My son is 10 and I’m not nearly as patient as I would like to be with him. All parents can relate to this issue. We get grumpy and often, just want a few minutes of silence. My son loves to talk and is seemingly asking hundreds of questions. I admire his zest for learning, but I quickly tire of the non-ending questions that are sure to come nearly everyday.

    Love your blog.

    Comment by Diane — July 3, 2006 @ 11:14 pm

  6. Just popping by to see how life is for you petite and enjoying the read as usual.

    Comment by theblonde — July 3, 2006 @ 11:33 pm

  7. Children can say really hurtful things but most of the time they don’t mean it that way at all. I’m sure tadpole had no idea how she sounded, but agree that maybe it’s a sign she needs more exposure to English.

    My son has the opposite problem – very little French and going to a French school (see ‘caca boudin’ on my blog)

    Look on the bright side, at least you don’t have to worry about her not finding her feet at maternelle!


    Comment by Francesca — July 3, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

  8. no more English? She sounds French already.

    Comment by joeinvegas — July 4, 2006 @ 12:00 am

  9. As I understand from your reading showing in the right column, you’re contemplating turning your blog into a book … Let us know !

    Comment by Yogi — July 4, 2006 @ 12:54 am

  10. You know what they’re like. They shout their observations, and rarely, only rarely, cryptically, speak their minds. She suspects you of blogging.

    Comment by fjl — July 4, 2006 @ 1:38 am

  11. Heh heh heh… (*sadistic chuckle*) Just wait until Tadpole gets to big kids’ school and realizes that English is a required course in France these days. When she aces her exams without even trying, maybe she’ll thank you for her British heritage instead of being resentful… Say, you’ve mentioned that when she spends time with Frog’s parents, she comes back a little too French and you have to twist her arm to get her to speak English again – Does she switch national identities and default to English when she visits *your* side of the family?

    Thank you for your blog – always fun to read, even when you’re describing any woman’s/mother’s/single parent’s/expat’s worst nightmare. The occasional pit in my stomach tells me that one day I’ll be in the same boat, so to speak, as my family is back in the states and my husband speaks no English at all. I envision my better half and any children we might have ganging up on me linguistically and leaving me spinning in conversational quarantine. The possibility of my progeny not being able to communicate with their maternal relatives on the other side of the Atlantic makes me terribly sad… *Sigh*

    Anyway, kudos to you for your parenting skills and your fierce determination to raise your daughter in both languages. (I pray that I’ll have your level of stamina if and when the stork drops an amphibious bundle of joy on our doorstep.)

    Comment by Sara in Melun — July 4, 2006 @ 2:50 am

  12. Ouch. That last bit had to smart. But I wouldn’t take it too personally. Children that age seem to just KNOW how to push their parents’ buttons and find the sore spots. They’re annoyingly intuitive that way.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — July 4, 2006 @ 4:13 am

  13. C’est terrible! Mais, “out of the mouths of babes.”

    She’s little…and that’s hilarious.

    Comment by Fixed Up Girl — July 4, 2006 @ 4:17 am

  14. knowing what you should be doing and summoning the willpower to do so are two very different things
    Isn’t that the truth?! Sometimes what helps me is pretending that this screaming child is not mine. If it’s someone else’s child I find it easier to stay calm and not completely lose my temper. Doesn’t always work though :-( She’s my little one after all and dealing with the same tantrums over and over gets really exhausting. At least Tadpole had a good excuse for being cranky – you were both tired.

    Comment by Susan — July 4, 2006 @ 4:18 am

  15. I don’t think anyone is a “good” mum all the time. I have a failsafe way to feel a bit better about my own short fuses. I ask myself how mothers in our grandparents’ generation with 7 children fared and I’m sure they didn’t cajole a naughty toddler into an educational felt-tip and glitter session. And I don’t think that it did a lot of harm to the human race long term.

    Comment by Flighty — July 4, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  16. Ahh, what parent can’t relate? When you’re both tired the crankiness just escelates.

    Comment by TheBoy — July 4, 2006 @ 11:50 am

  17. I can understand your short fuse with the heat outside. I hear that Paris will be 33° C today, with no swimming pool easily accessible. Thinking about your Givenchy bathing suit, is dark brown the new black?

    Comment by Lost in France — July 4, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

  18. Your daughter is definately very photogenic. The last time I saw a child with her face painted like that she had made a computer crash in the nearby library. All I could do was giggle. (It wasn’t very serious). I’m not sure which was more entertaining, the computer crashing or the ‘I know everything’ librarian trying to fix it. Children are priceless sometimes.

    Comment by Java — July 4, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

  19. dear missC

    hv u eva thought about riting in prper english instd ov abbrvd txt all the time, because rather than sounding like an illiterate ten year old, using the correct grammar and spelling can actually help an author come across as intelligent and articulate. Which I’m sure you are.


    Comment by stressqueen — July 4, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

  20. This is possibly a naive question, but does it help, when your child is bored and acting up, to just agree with them. “I know darling, I’m bored too – it’s very frustrating.” Maybe when they know that you can’t do anything about it, they stop expecting you to.

    Or do they just use it against you?

    Nice pic – she looks like a very cute little tigermaid.

    Comment by Damian — July 4, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

  21. At that age, she could likely be adopting ideas she heard somewhere. It’s France, she has French relatives, people may be touting the virtues of Frenchness while she’s not getting the balanced treatment for the other side. Which isn’t to say you’re not doing enough — you’re just outnumbered.

    Comment by jin-ah — July 4, 2006 @ 4:08 pm

  22. You two crack me up…. get writing that book!

    Comment by mimi — July 4, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

  23. OMG the disdain, she is truly French! I blame the inlaws. Pop her off to your mums for a stay asap.

    Congratulations to you both on your new home and may it be a home full of much love and laughter.

    Comment by Claire — July 4, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

  24. Brings back memories! You have to be young and energetic to deal with toddlers so no wonder things go wrong when you are both tired.
    Did you have any time for the move?????

    Comment by Sablonneuse — July 4, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

  25. Glad you had some relaxing time in your swanky bikini, even if it’s paid for by stool rummaging and train tantrums.

    Comment by Elizabeth — July 4, 2006 @ 6:56 pm

  26. Book? Darling, I’m too busy painting. And going to ikea. And painting some more.

    Comment by petite — July 4, 2006 @ 7:13 pm

  27. TO Sara in Melun, I am American, in France for over 16 years with a French non-English speaking husband, and, alas, two “we-understand-English-but-don’t-speak-it” boys, 8 and 10. I did my best, but they don’t speak, so they have no relation whatsoever with my family stateside… granted, my family has never offered to take them in for any vacations, so I do blame my family too but…

    As for Petite, hey, you get high marks for being able to wear a bikini post childbirth. I jsut need 3000 Euros to get that tummy tuck and then we can talk bikini.

    Comment by magillicuddy — July 4, 2006 @ 9:47 pm

  28. I know five other “anglophone” moms with French partners (or ex-partners) who are raising their kids in France, aside from myself. All the kids are more fluent in French than in English: duh, we live here. But it is infinitely easier to “keep up” the other culture precisely because it’s English, than if the other culture were Norwegian or Laotian (is that what one says?). I’ve friends in this situation as well. For us English speakers, we’ve all obtained English books/movies/playmates (in our case, without trying) and all of our kids *understand* perfectly fine. Most of them don’t speak comfortably, but can and do, with a French accent. They can communicate with their English-speaking relatives. They do have it easier in English classes – until such time as they actually have to work and write essays and so forth, when they generally find it harder because they had coasted until then. So what? It’s got to be an advantage over starting from scratch the 2nd language as most of us did in secondary school. And who said your children are going to share your culture, anyhow? I know ahead of time that my kids won’t be in marching band or on the lacrosse team. Let’s allow our kids to grow up different from us, or they’ll force it on us anyhow later on.

    Comment by Alethea — July 4, 2006 @ 10:41 pm

  29. clever girly!

    Comment by lilacstripe — July 4, 2006 @ 10:54 pm

  30. Never sorted stools for stones while wearing a Givenchy bikini but I did once administer pain killers via the ‘rear end’ to a 2 year old while my Gucci bag was in the same room..
    Does that count?

    Comment by Julia — July 5, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  31. being german in France, I really much apreciated an international school.

    Comment by schuey — July 5, 2006 @ 11:17 am

  32. For anyone who cares enough about the entanglement of language and life to write a lot — that’d be *you*, Petite — an offspring who rejects your language has got to be God’s way of saying something at least mildly annoying about your behaviour in a former life or some such.

    My suggestion: have a margarita or six, and slur in English. Will make you feel way better.

    Comment by Blender Bender — July 5, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

  33. Put it in the ‘bank’ and guilt her with it later in life. She’s a beautiful little girl.

    Comment by Lin — July 5, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  34. She will appreciate it later but right now that must sting!

    A Scottish colleague (here in Holland) told me her children are embarrassed when she talks with the Dutch mothers at school because she “speaks funny”.

    It sounds tough raising kids in a foreign country.

    Comment by Suze — July 5, 2006 @ 6:19 pm

  35. Where I live, my kids are lucky enough to have a bilingual education system, but still get anglophone mums speaking to their kids in French and then moaning that their level of English isn’t good enough…(Deuh!). On the other hand, some mums are PROUD of being unable to speak French…(Ick!). I’m fairly sure that Petite is probably sensible enough to speak to Tadpole in English, therefore ‘hard’ work for Tadpole who would prefer everything to be easy, i.e. in French. Don’t lose heart, she will be grateful in the long run. Just as important as bi-lingual is bi-cultural, which is harder when completely outnumbered.

    Comment by J — July 5, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

  36. Mine speak Neuilly French, but English with a boglike Irish accent.
    To wit to hoo, a merry note.
    And as to me myself personably, well I couldn’t be arsed!

    Comment by Trevor — July 5, 2006 @ 10:02 pm

  37. Je suppose qu’elle est trop jeune à comprendre que l’anglais est tellement supérieur au français.
    Bon je charrie, je charrie… (I’ll probably still get hate email!)

    Comment by delaïdo — July 6, 2006 @ 12:11 am

  38. What Mimi said.

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — July 6, 2006 @ 7:37 am

  39. My Paolo, when he is “en colère” against me, spits out (in French): “Je n’aime pas le français. Et d’abord, je ne suis pas français, je suis anglais!” (and gets: “Tu peux pas être anglais, t’as jamais mis les pieds en Angleterre!” from his brother).
    Ben oui, pas forcément évident: he speaks French, reads books in French, listens to French songs, and he is French. He speaks English, reads books in English, and he is … American? This is not logical.

    From the same Paolo: “Maman, je ne t’aime plus, et je ne parle plus français”. Mother and mother-tongue, one and the same …

    Comment by Lola — July 6, 2006 @ 7:41 am

  40. Hi Petite,
    I have been visiting to your site regularly and I really like your postings. I am glad to know that now you are the owner of your own house. But hey that little tigress is looking very cute and adorable. is she gonna partcipate in any fancy dress competition.

    Comment by James Thompson — July 6, 2006 @ 8:22 am

  41. cute picture. Great recap

    Comment by jr — July 6, 2006 @ 9:19 am

  42. Bumped into your blog looking for blogs relating to life in France. Great stuff. Loved the part about female/male friendships. And the Tadpole will be even more of a handfull in the coming years. I know as I have 4 grandchildren now and they are too smart for words. Good luck.

    Comment by Paul Strohm — July 6, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  43. I admire you for sticking to English when you speak to tadpole. I’m in the opposite situation: Belgian living in America to an American husband who doesn’t speak French. I try to talk to my son in French, but it’s very hard. He’s only one, though, maybe that will change?
    My mom was in a similar situation with me: she was Dutch-speaking and sent me to a French-speaking school. French took over, at home as well. I can still speak Dutch, but it’s rusty.
    Finally, my family speaks Dutch, my Belgian friends speak French, and my in-laws speak English. I figured I’d drop Dutch and focus on just English & French. I hope I made the right decision…

    Comment by Marianne — July 7, 2006 @ 12:09 am

  44. Wow, this place is more multi-national than I guessed… this is a cool blog spot.

    I’m Scots, my hubbie is a Brit, we live in California, both kids are American, daughter goes to a French school. Amazing how much my high school “francais” improved after having to use it to talk to her teachers for 3 years. The kids here just switch between languages without trying, and the guidance here is for us to speak to them in our mother tongue, even if they reply in another.

    Comment by Cee — July 7, 2006 @ 1:12 am

  45. Whoa, she’s pretty darn cute. She sounds like me when I was a but a tiny tyke. :0l

    Comment by Noire Dire — July 7, 2006 @ 4:56 am

  46. Hey Petite,

    Who was that sweet little and adorable tigress. she is looking so pretty. Just tell me that is she going to participate in some Fancy dress competition.

    Comment by Richard Willy — July 7, 2006 @ 11:23 am

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