When my firecracker of a niece proudly showed myself and Pearl, her other auntie, a picture she had drawn, we politely told her it was fabulous and what a good artist she was and also how lifelike the picture of her drowning and daddy shouting at the lifeguard was. As soon as her back was turned to ‘add more water’ to the massive swirls of orange pen on her paper we fell about, silently laughing, shoulders shaking and cheeks aching as we tried (and failed quite spectacularly) to contain our mirth. Firecracker is four years old and still in that deliciously innocent stage where the truth just erupts from her lips and bugger the consequences. Of course she gets away with it because she’s four and therefore allowed to say whatever the hell she likes.
Her most recent piece of artwork was inspired by a traumatic (for her daddy, at least) experience during a swimming lesson when Firecracker slipped off a float and was submerged. The actual details are shrouded in mystery as she simply reported ‘I was drownded but daddy saved me. And then he shouted at the man.’ She escaped unscathed and not in the slightest bit traumatised by the event, unlike daddy who was was a jibbering, steaming, angry wreck of a man by the time they arrived home. This got me thinking about the little gems of observation our tiny humans come out with, sometimes with epic comedy timing so as to reduce the listener to tears of laughter, and other times to simply shame us into wishing the earth would open up and swallow us whole.
One particularly embarrassing episode happened in Marks and Spencer when Little Monkey was about 18 months old. His speech has always been brilliant but due to a slight lisp and difficulty with pronouncing some sounds, his words often sounded like something else entirely. So there we were, perusing the fruit and veg when he suddenly shot his hands up in the air and shouted ‘ASS!’ Now, I should point out that we both understood that this meant ‘hands’ as in ‘I want to hold your hands mummy’. Cute right? Yep, really cute when the lady in front turned around and looked pointedly at me and then Little Monkey before turning away in disgust. Her middle class upbringing clearly didn’t allow for such vulgar language from such a small person. It was only a matter of time before he spotted the blueberries just in front of her. Yep, that’s right ‘BOOBIES!’
This reminded me of a friend whose little boy, Egan, loves a stick but cant say the ‘st’ sound properly. He replaces it with ‘d’. Yes dear reader, Egan loves to take a dick into school to show his teacher.
Children do have a lovely little habit of pointing out the blindingly obvious and when we would find it offensive or uncomfortable to say out loud for fear of upsetting someone; they just come right out with it. Take my friend Andrea, who went to a primary school for a settling in visit with her little one. As she went to sit down on a chair a little girl exclaimed ‘You can’t sit there! Your bum is too big to fit!’ Which was probably true (because the chairs in primary schools are tiny, not because Andrea has a big bum) but no one over the age of 10 would ever say it out loud in quite that way. Similarly my friend, Lisa’s, little boy, Ollie, remarked, while helping her to hang out the washing that her trousers were ‘really big’. They do make you feel just peachy about yourself, don’t they?
On the other hand they can make you feel heart-meltingly warm and fuzzy with just a simple little compliment like; ‘mummy your nails are beautiful’ or ‘I love you so much I want to squeeze you until your head pops off!’ (Ok, slightly more sinister and I might not leave Firecracker alone with Little Panda until he’s big enough to fend for himself, but her heart is in the right place.) Kids just call it as they see it don’t they? Like Jasmine’s two who came to the conclusion that she must be younger than her sister because ‘she’s so much fatter than you’. Logic.
It’s fair to comment, however, that children are not always the most truthful of beings. Imaginary friends are there to blame the bad stuff on, like Emily’s imaginary friend Buster the dog. He’s responsible for pouring glue in daddy’s shoes, tipping rice into the dishwasher before turning it on and for colouring her baby sister’s nails in with permanent marker. Riley, however, has chosen to forgo the imaginary friend tact and stick with the theory that if she says it enough it must be true. Like the time she told everyone at nursery she was getting a baby brother. She definitely is NOT getting a baby brother, no matter how many times she waves her fairy wand.
I think it’s nice to have a little bit of innocence in an otherwise difficult and complicated world sometimes. So remember, the next time you’re overwhelmed by the scene in front of you and you’re not quite sure what to say, take a leaf out of a toddler’s book. The correct phrase to use when all other words fail you is ‘Holy Batman!’