When Young Knight was younger and wanted to cause me pain, he would say, “You’s naughty maman; you’s a baby” in his most defiant voice. This, of course, would serve to have the opposite effect as I dissolved in laughter.
He used this term because the word for naughty in French is “méchant” or “méchante” for a girl (pronounced may shawnte), but this word is also used to denote “villain” or “mean,” which is the angle he was going for. Every good story always has a “méchant” who is subdued in some manner by the end of it.
You can call a child méchant, meaning they are naughty. You can also call them malin (or maligne) which means they are clever and rather mischievious. You can also call them coquin or coquine for a girl (co-keen), which has a more playful connotation – rascal, sly minx, a tease. Obviously as with everything French there leaves the possibility for a sexual interpretation if the subject is older. But we’ll stick with the playful.
Kids are naturally malin. I’ve heard stories about my parents coming into the living room when my brother and I were toddlers and finding us next to the open vaseline pot, flinging vaseline off our fingers onto the couch, which was already ruined beyond repair. My mom also walked into the kitchen to the sound of our giggles as we flicked spoonfuls of spaghettios onto the kitchen wall.
I’m sure she will thank me to add that she no longer serves spaghettios.
Giggling is always a bad sign. It was the prelude to my cutting my head open on our metal bunk-bed as my brother and I wrestled together, and it was the prelude to my cutting the stitches from cutting my head open on my metal bunk-bed that same night. Luckily my mother had a powerful friend who stood up to the doctor and assured him that she was not an abusive mother. Kids.
They wring your heart out, right? Or at least bring the threat of social services.
My kids are not so bad. I mean, they don’t listen to me at all. I may as well be an annoying fly buzzing something in their ear, certainly not a voice of authority to be obeyed. (Until I yell). But apart from completely ignoring me, they are sweet, good kids.
Alright you three. Hold out your hands and let’s measure them up to see which one of you was eating chocolate …
Some of my friends have it harder. One friend, Cécile, whose daughters Laura and Terry (I’m cloaking them in anonymity but their French names are so much cuter) are real coquines!
One of the mothers in the schoolyard approached Cécile last year and told her that her younger daughter, who was just five years old at the time, had kissed the entire class of boys on the mouth. Cécile didn’t really believe it, but asked her daughter who shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know. ”Je thais pas.” (She has a lisp).
Cécile then asked her daughter’s friend Julianna who spilled the entire story (and whose own hands, or lips, were not entirely clean in the matter either).
Recently Cécile was taking a shower and Terry, now at age six, came into the bathroom and asked her mom where her purse was. Cécile quickly turned off the shower, grabbed a towel and stepped out. ”What do you need it for?” she asks following her daughter into the living room.
“I need your credit card,” was the reply.
“You can’t have my credit card, “her mother spluttered. ”What do you want it for?”
“I want to buy a crèpe pan. Your crèpeth are alwayth methed up and you thaid it’s becauthe of the crèpe pan you have. I want to buy a new pan tho we can have good crèpeth.”
“And I want to buy some anti-cellulite cream,” pipes up Laura who is nine.
“What?” Cécile asks in disbelief, turning to her. ”You’re nine years old. Laura, you don’t need anti-cellulite cream!”
Laura is insecure about her weight, although there is absolutely nothing about her that is fat. She doesn’t even like sweets. She doesn’t even like to eat! But she has rounder features than her younger sister and is still smarting from Terry’s comment that she looks like Alvin and the Chipmunks. ”I do need it,” she insists.
Cécile’s eyes bug out as she notices her daughter has the phone in hand. ”Who are you talking to?” The phone is purposely located out of reach so the children won’t start making random phone calls.
“I’m talking to the lady on the tv,” Terry responds innocently.
“No you’re not,” responds Cécile bemused by the surreal conversation she is having, as water drips on the floor at her feet. ”How did you get the number?”
“It’th right there, on the bottom of the thcreen.” And sure enough it was, the phone number was running along the bottom of the shopping network show.
“Hang up. Hang up!” hissed Cécile.
We were, of course, roaring with laughter as she recounted this story, and she acknowledged, shaking her head, that she will be in for a rough time of it when her daughters become teenagers. She’s a great mom though, and I’m kind of starting to think it’s really the luck of the draw which parent ends up with a coquine and which one doesn’t. But in any event, each one of us is in for some side-splitting laughter.
And a fair amount of sleepless nights.