You’ve probably been seeing all the news the last couple of weeks: the French are better parents than we are.
In addition to having a cooler language, better wine, older monuments, sexier politicians, and hotter women.
And, apparently, their children are perfectly toilet trained, sh*tting out €20 bills from the age of 6 months.
Or something. I’m afraid I haven’t read the book, um, yet.
As a child, among my multiple geographic and ancestral confusions was the fact that my father was a university French professor. He was really into it. Our family were “French manque;” think of it as “fake French” or in the modern parlance “French wannabe.”
My father’s French was so good, his accent so flawless and his grammar so perfect, that French people told him this was how they could tell he wasn’t French. My mother, despite her claim that she didn’t speak French, nevertheless managed to type my father’s six French-language scholarly books for him. Flawlessly. On. A. Typewriter. (i.e. no automatic accents or auto-correct. She used to go back through and add all the accents in by hand.)
(Side note: My parents did everything flawlessly. I hope my children appreciate what a hot mess I am.)
In our house, it wasn’t “Dinnertime!” It was “à table!” Instead of “bedtime!”– “à do-do.”
And French children were so smart! They could speak French perfectly by the time they were two! Whereas we had to spend hours in front of the mirror learning not just the proper pronunciation of the French short u, but the actual facio-muscular configuration. (Not kidding.) Americans actually make this sound all the time–it’s that fleeting moment between the “y” and the “o” in “you.” There are French people, in particular grad students to whom you have surrendered your bed, and for whom your mother has been cooking all day, who use the supposed inability of Americans to make this sound as evidence of our evolutionary failings. I say it perfectly. If the only word I ever had to say was tu, there isn’t a native French speaker on the planet who wouldn’t think I was one of them.
I’ll put my French “u” up against any French person’s attempt at any American “r” anytime.
And then there’s dinner. “The little French children wait for dinner with their napkins tucked and their silverware in their hands.” “The little French children wait their turn for food.” “The little French children [were doing something perfect that I will never learn, because at this point I had stopped listening].
I hated the little French children. The new revelations of their perfection just demonstrate, in a backhanded sort of way, how rational this attitude actually was.