Mark, March 2016
Mark, March 2016

According to the French wisdom—built upon centuries of losing wars, drinking wine and having sex—”la vérite sort de la bouche des enfants”. The idiom is roughly the equivalent of “out of the mouths of babe oft times come gems.” I like to pretend this is not true because Mark did say my butt was big and when he was asked who was prettiest, the Buenos Aires tango dancer or mommy, he didn’t even hesitate before blurting out a painfully honest answer.

There was the primal scream stage, a binary mode where Mark was either sleeping, either screaming. Then came the communication stage where he added gurgles and other meaningful sounds to his repertoire, the “mama” stage, the first-word stage that took a lot of guesswork to figure out what Mark was trying to say based on a single word like “moon,” “another” or “bateau.” Fast forward a few months and now Mark makes complete sentences. To me, this is amazing. Mark makes sense!

… well, not all the time. But this may not be a language issue.

Mark used to cry a lot. He still does occasionally when he is very tired or frustrated, but I encourage him to speak up and explain what’s going on. And most of the time, I find his concerns perfectly legit in the mind of a 3.5-year-old kid: he wants to draw a perfect star, he is afraid to get a toy wet after he washed his hands, he doesn’t like to go get a ball that rolled down the stairs to the basement. If he can express himself, we avoid drama and it’s also a chance for me to explain to him how things work, why people react like this or like that.

I like this role.

I want to remember all the funny things Mark says, the highlights of this “quotable stage,” a mix of bluntness, perceptive insights and silliness. Kids are worth listening to—they have things to say.

“Sounds legit” category

“Did you nap at school?”

“I couldn’t. My eyes were open.”

“Perverted mind” category

“Mommy… Becca sleeps with Nono…”

(I checked and yes, after investigation it turned out that indeed, Rebecca, one of the pre-schoolers at daycare, sleeps with Nono, her comfort blanket).

“Not-so-adventurous gourmet” category

“What does Charlie eat at school?”

“Charlie? Mmm… fish.”

“Oh, really? That’s good. And Nicolas? What does he eat?”

“Nicolas eats fish. Molly too!”

I felt super inadequate with my pasta lunches until I realized the kids weren’t eating gourmet fresh fish but munching on these infamous goldfish crackers. Phew.

Category “math skills”

“I give you the chocolate if you pass the test. Count to ten!”

“One. Ten. Chocolate, please.”

“Self-punishment” category

Picking up Mark at daycare with the usual small chocolate egg.

“Small accident pee-pee pants, so no chocolate, thank you.”

“I am Canadian” category

“Charlie hit me.”

“Oh no! What did you say?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Hazardous grammar” category

“Mommy… Why are you brush-teething?”

“International diplomacy” category

“Mommy fights, daddy fights, Mark fights!”

“Mark… I’m not fighting. I don’t like fighting. And I’m certainly not fighting you.”

“Mommy… we don’t fight. We fight MONSTERS! I am not a monster. You fight MONSTERS!”

“Forgive him; for he does not know what he is saying” category

“This is too loud in my ears! I don’t like this music!”

“Mark, this is Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. Mommy likes it. I like it. And I hate to break it to you, but your middle name is ‘Floyd’.”

“Vegetable slurs” category

“You’re… just a giant broccoli!”

“Heartbreaking” category

“So Mark, do you remember when you cried a lot when you first started school? Why did you cry? Why were you sad?”

“… Because mommy was here, and then I couldn’t see mommy anymore. You weren’t there!”

“Sounds legit #2” category

“I don’t want to jump on the bed and get hurt because mommy doesn’t like blood.”

“Let’s cancel the exorcist” category


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  1. Frenchie au Canada April 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    He’s so cute! And I love all these little phrases, kids are the cutest. I somehow (going from link to link) ended up on your article about getting pregnant. I was really touched by the fact that it “sorta happened”. That’s what I dreamed and hoped would happen for us (sadly it’s going to involve more treatments sigh).
    Anyway, I was wondering whether your little man speaks French and Chinese as well?

    1. Zhu April 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      I know how lucky I was, in a way, to get pregnant almost right away. I was shocked actually, I thought it would take time… months, maybe. Many of my friends had trouble getting pregnant and I assumed it wasn’t always as easy as sex-ed classes taught us. Yes, I feel lucky in a way, although it almost happened too fast… and the timing was very strange. But I wanted Mark, it worked out in the end! I’m sorry to hear it’s taking time for you. I can tell you that all of my friends who went through various challenges to get pregnant (including medical help) all did get pregnant and have several kids 🙂

      Mark speaks English, and he understands Mandarin and some French. He regularly uses words in these last two languages, but lingua franca is English.

      1. Frenchie au Canada April 15, 2016 at 10:21 am

        Thanks 🙂 That’s reassuring to hear!
        And I see what you mean about it maybe being too quick, I thought I was pregnant (when in fact it was only my health problem) a couple of months after stopping the pill and I panicked that it was too early lol
        I saw in your response below that he has no accent in French, that’s awesome. There is a French school and day care here but they are full of Canadians so I’d be worried about my kid sounding like he’s from Quebec haha

        1. Zhu April 15, 2016 at 10:37 pm

          I think it often takes a while to get pregnant, it’s just one of these “private” things we rarely talk about until the topic comes up 😉

          Nope, Mark definitely has my French accent but he hasn’t heard much French except in France and with me so far.

  2. Bianca April 14, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    “One. Ten. Chocolate please!” Hahahahahah! Smart kid, eh?
    I was also wondering what languages he speaks, obviously English, how about French and Chinese?

    Also, I have a rather personal question, if you don’t mind?:)

    1. Zhu April 14, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Please, do ask the personal question! Either here or by email, whatever you choose.

      All these little anecdotes were spoken in English. Mark’s French isn’t as good now, I’m the only one who occasionally speak French. His accent is perfect though when he does say something in French (prompted by me). He understands Mandarin, or at least he understands Feng’s parents. He uses a few words in Chinese but usually replies in English when spoken to in Chinese.

      1. Bianca April 15, 2016 at 11:50 am

        I find all this so interesting, I myself was raised in a bilingual home and remember being quite confused at times, especially when adults mixed up the two languages together in the same sentence.
        Now that I am married, between my own family and my husband’s family there are about 6 very different languages spoken. I’ve been wondering how I’ll go about raising our kids in this very multi-language family, any tips? Helpppp 🙂

        Now… I know you have great love for written word and languages, would you mind writing more in depth about raising a child in bilingual home? Little Mark is a perfect example, and also imagine what advantage in life he’ll have by learning three (!) worldly languages at such young age?

        On a much more personal note, here is my nosy Q.. what are your thoughts on Baby #2? 🙂

        1. Zhu April 15, 2016 at 10:49 pm

          Oh, you aren’t nosy! Basically, I don’t want another child at this stage. I think I’ve always wanted to become a mother at one point in my life, it was something I wanted to ‘experience’, I felt I would have missed out something otherwise. This is just me, though, I understand people who don’t want kids. Anyway, I knew I wanted a kid, but I never had plans for how big of a family, boy or girl, etc. And now that I had Mark, I don’t find myself longing for another one. I can’t explain, I feel happy the way we are. There are the challenges of having another kid too, including the fact I hated the physical part of being pregnant and that it’s very very hard to have a baby/young kid when you have no family around to help out. So for now, Mark will be the little emperor. Will I ever change my mind? No idea. I’m 33, so technically I have a few years left to ponder. But right now… one kid is good!

          I really should write something about raising a kid in a multi-language family. I will! It’s just that… I have no idea what I’m doing! 😆 I can tell Mark is happy to finally “master” English, he likes to express himself and be understood. He gets annoyed when I speak another language, including French, because I think he gets the rough meaning but doesn’t truly understand it.

          1. Bianca April 16, 2016 at 2:43 am

            Thank you very much Zhu, as always your honesty and no-nonsense approach to parenting and life in general is very refreshing:)
            Looking forward to your multi-language post in the future!

          2. Zhu April 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm

            Promise, it’s on my list! Literally… I have a list of topics I want to write about 😉

            Now I’m curious about your own experience with several languages, especially in a bilingual home. What language are you most comfortable with, which one would be your mother tongue? Were your parents “enforcing” the use of both languages equally? At what point did you get past the confusion you mentioned?

          3. Bianca April 22, 2016 at 3:26 am

            I can relate to little Mark, and up to probably age 10 the concept of different languages around me reeeally confused me. My parents come from different countries, speak two different languages and have together immigrated to another country which added a 3rd language to the mix, and this would be my strongest language since I grew up and went to school here. Next strongest influence was my father’s language, more relatives around to pick it up so that’s my language #2. Last by far my mother’s, as it was least spoken.

            I remember being utterly confused at the question “What is your mother’s tongue?” asked in school, or when filling out forms. To this day I am not sure I truly know the answer to that one?

            Like I said I was utterly confused at times in regard to languages, and as if that wasn’t enough one sweet day TV was on, i was around 6-7 yrs old, and some people in some random show were yapping away, didn’t understand a word they were saying. So I ask my Mom what is this?? She calmly proceeds to tell me they are speaking in a language called English. WAIT. WHAT!
            ‘Yes, they live in a different country where people speak a different language than us.’
            Wait whaaat!! I couldn’t wait to share this piece of information with everyone I knew! I couldn’t wrap my little brain around this fascinating fact. But wait, how do we learn to communicate with this foreign English speaking specimens? I was in awe!

            Anyhow, that’s how I eventually learned to speak English, it’s what sparked my interest for languages/linguistics and led me to study other languages later on. Which brings me to present time, my husband has a similar multi-language childhood story and between the two of us and our families there’s many different languages spoken. Our kids are in for a fun ride for sure!!!:)

            I am REALLY looking forward to your language blog post and please do tell how little Mark is handling it all, hoping for some tips and advice 🙂 and sorry for long comment didn’t mean to hijack your post

          4. Zhu April 22, 2016 at 7:31 pm

            This is truly fascinating for me, hearing you explain it so well. Thank you for sharing! It makes me think too, about language, about communication… must think some more now 😉

  3. Isa April 14, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    You know… With all these quotes, Mark just makes me think of Calvin (without Hobbes)

    1. Zhu April 14, 2016 at 7:23 pm


  4. I Say Oui April 15, 2016 at 12:01 am

    It’s nice that he will try not to get hurt to spare you the blood…

    A daily chocolate egg? Never heard of this, but it’s a nice tradition you created!

    1. Zhu April 15, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      It was a parenting mistake, one of these “why did I even…” moment! 😆 The first day he started daycare again after our trip, I brought him a Kinder to cheer him up. And now of course he expects it every day. I downsized to a small mini egg, of course.

  5. Lexie April 15, 2016 at 8:12 am

    J’adore ça me fait marrer ! Je publie souvent sur la page fb du blog les remarques de B. Ça me surprend tjs !

    1. Zhu April 15, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Je devrais les lire tiens, si elles son publiques (j’ai pas de compte FB).

    1. Zhu April 15, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      Alors que seul un “fuck” bien senti suffit…!

      1. Martin Penwald April 16, 2016 at 10:29 pm

        Ben non, justement, le français est beaucooup plus élégant que l’anglais pour jurer. C’est comme s’essuyer le cul avec de la soie.

        1. Zhu April 16, 2016 at 10:45 pm

          C’est pas faux, on a plus de nuances. Moi j’adore le mélange du vouvoiement et des insultes, genre dans les familles “vous m’emmerdez, belle-maman”!

  6. Lynn April 18, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Hee! “You’re a giant broccoli” is the best insult ever. 🙂

    1. Zhu April 18, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      I’m totally using it now.


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