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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Loulou Edition

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In France, loulou means … well I guess it means kid, as in: eh les loulous [hey kids, listen up], or gros bisous aux loulous [big kiss to the kids].

M happens to have 2 loulous, who are twins, a boy and a girl, one month shy of their 5th birthday. In spite of my age I have not had much experience with children, and when I first arrived on the scene as the part-time-sort-of-step-mom, I had no idea what I was doing.

I have had to make a lot of changes. The first one was to accept that I was now, unavoidably, a grown-up, and kids depend on grown-ups for everything. Not only to feed, bathe, and protect them, but to zip jackets, to remember where they put their toys, to explain ‘why’, to kiss their booboos (it actually works), and to read them stories at night. Up until a few months ago, all the caretaking I had done consisted of pouring out kibble, changing water, and cleaning litter boxes.

I was afraid that if M went out for more than 15 minutes the loulous would kill each other then burn down the house. When they cried I didn’t know how to help them, and when they were bad I didn’t know how to make them be good again. It can’t be that hard, I thought, kids look after other kids all the time. Hell I did it in high school. But as I plan to be a part of their lives for a long time, I can’t be the babysitter they coerce bonbons out of then ignore when I tell them to do something. And as I haven’t had the last almost 5 years of their lives to learn how to be a good grown up, I have to learn really fast.

In the same way that my cats seem to understand the loulous are the kitten versions of me and act accordingly, a lot of it comes naturally. Many moments from my early childhood have come back to me (I thought I had forgotten it all). I try to see situations from their point of view, to read books, and ask a lot of questions. It’s challenging and exhausting.

Now, I am the every-other-week evening caretaker. I pick them up from the centre de loisirs [after-school daycare], walk them home, bathe and stuff food into them, then try to get them into bed by 20h30. This is the first ‘normal-people’ thing I have done in France, and it gave me a lot of stage fright. I had a nearly crippling insecurity that I would look stupid because my French was not good enough to speak to other adults, the loulous would not listen to me, revealing to everyone that I had no control over them, and, of course, the kids would run out into traffic on the walk home.

But I’m getting used to it. The fears are subsiding, and the things that used to gross me out, like nose-blowing, butt wiping, and being sneezed on, no longer phase me. Sometimes I even eat the last bites of their unfinished dinners, defying my previously held belief that coming into contact with anything a child had touched or breathed on would bring on instant chronic illness.

The hardest part has been and still is the language barrier. A double language barrier in fact, between English and French, and then between grown-up and four-and-three-quarters-year-old. For any of you interested in raising your kids to speak French, but you don’t know the kid-lingo, I thought I would share some useful words that they don’t teach you at the Alliance Française:

  • gros mots – bad words, preferably delivered in long, musical strings : caca-zizi-pipi-crotte-de-nez-gros-caca-boudin [poop-willy-pee-pee-booger-big-poop-blood-sausage], often finished with a flourish of grosse crotte de caniche [big-poodle-poop]
  • zizi – boy part (primary organ): ne tripote pas ton zizi [don't play with yourself]
  • nenette – girl part
  • pet – a fart (sounds like ‘pay’): j’ai pété [I farted], (said with a big smile)
  • rototo - a burp: il faut dire pardon quand on fait un rototo [excuse yourself when you burp]
  • crotte de nez – booger
  • crotte – animal poo: crotte de chien [dog poo], crotte de chat [cat poo]
  • faire caca – go poop, faire pipi – go pee-pee, often with the door wide open, singing at the top of one’s lungs
  • s’essuyer – wipe oneself: j’ai fait caca viens m’essuyer [I just pooped come wipe me]
  • les fesses – the butt, j’ai les fesses qui me grattent [my butt itches]
  • tirer la chasse d’eau – flush the toilet
  • à poil – naked (lit. to the hair)
  • taquiner – to tease
  • tapper – to hit
  • donner un coup de pied – to kick
  • griffer - to scratch
  • cracher – to spit: ne craches pas sur sa soeur! [don't spit on your sister]
  • mordre – to bite : ne mords pas ton frère [don't bite your brother]
  • aie! - ouch!
  • vous m’ennervez! – you two are driving me nuts!
  • tu m’as fait mal – you hurt me
  • bobo – boo boo
  • sparadrap – bandaid
  • faire une crise - throw a tantrum
  • morve – big liquid booger (oozing down upper lip)
  • se moucher - blow one’s nose
  • faire le singe – to act crazy (singe=monkey)
  • manger comme un cochon – to eat like a pig
  • faire n’importe quoi – to be silly or to misbehave
  • dire n’importe quoi – talk nonsense
  • laisse moi tranquille! – leave me alone
  • doucement! – gently!
  • sage – well behaved: sois sage! [be good!]
  • faire dodo – to go to sleep (pronounced like the bird)
  • doudou – plush animal toy, particularly with a round head and flat square body, cherished for years, disastrous if lost
  • faire des beaux rêves – to have sweet dreams
  • un chevalier – a knight
  • Spidercochon – Spiderpig
  • une licorne – a unicorn
  • Charlotte aux Fraises – Strawberry Shortcake