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A Simple Explanation (or Conversing With a 22-Month-Old Toddler)

Ottawa, August 2014
Ottawa, August 2014

“See, Mark, mommy was born in France. Remember France? We went three times. We flew on a big plane.”


“No, Mark, mommy wasn’t born on the moon. Seriously. Stop saying random words. Anyway, we travelled to France to see your French family. And buy the cheap French soap and beauty products mommy likes. Now, daddy was born in China. This is why your eyes are smaller than mine and why you have a small nose and you can’t pick boogers properly—Chinese genes.”


“Yes, you can have a banana. So, because daddy was born in China, you also have relatives…”


“No, you can’t have a sip of my Coke. But the fact you said ‘nǎinǎi’ is interesting. See, you can speak French, English and also Mandarin. Because Yéyé and Nǎinai speak Chinese to you.”


“Yes, this is my computer and no, you can’t touch it. So,  Yéyé, Nǎinai and daddy are Chinese. Well, you too, obviously. And guess what—we are going to China! Far far from Canada.”


“Sure, there will be doors in China. Actually, they are called ‘mén’ over there and incidentally, in Beijing, we will stay in Qiánmén, which means…”

“Daddy! Daaaddy!”

“… not ‘daddy’ at all. Focus, buddy. Seriously, you’re so not ready for Harvard—mind you, neither are we, financially speaking. So, China will be very different from Canada. There will be a lot of people in the street. They will all look Chinese. Kind of like going to the Chinese supermarket but being in there 24/7.”


“Oh yes, there will be bikes. Tons of them. People will speak Chinese to you, but don’t worry, mommy and daddy will speak in English if you don’t understand. Wanna hear a funny story?”

“Ah ah!”

“No Mark, you have to laugh after the story. Anyway, when I was in Shanghai in 2000, I was walking on the Bund—it’s a famous place in Shanghai—and Chinese couples were handing me their babies and taking pictures of me with the kids. Weird, eh? I’m probably framed in a few Chinese living rooms. Okay, now you can laugh.

“Oh, by the way, sorry: you don’t have a Chinese name because we never quite got around to picking one for you. Don’t blame us, buddy. You were barely sleeping as a baby and we didn’t have any neurons left.

“The food in China is very good. You will like it. Well, you already do, I guess since you like dumplings, tofu, roasted meat and spicy stuff. I’ll teach you how to eat with chopsticks. Never mind if you make a mess, the Chinese make a mess when they eat anyway. Yes, this is the French me speaking.

“Alright, Mark. So China it is, okay?”


“Glad you like our crazy parenting decisions buddy. Now shall we go down the slide one more time?”

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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