One of the first books that I read in French was Le Petite Prince. It was a bit of a step-up from the Monsieur Madame (Mr Men) books that I had been reading. It was frustratingly slow to read as I was expanding (and constantly looking up) my French vocabulary. However, it’s such a great book, and even reading with beginner French the following passage has stuck with me.
Grown-ups love numbers. When you tell them of a new friend, they never ask the important questions. They never ask, “What does their voice sound like? What are their favourite games? Do they collect butterflies?” Instead they ask, “How old are they? How many brothers? How much do they weigh? How much does their Dad make?” And if you tell a grown-up, “I saw a gorgeous red brick house with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof,” they can’t imagine the house. You have to tell them, “I saw a million dollar house.” Then they can exclaim, “That’s so nice!” – Le Petite Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Note: I translated the above from the original French version that we have. Therefore, it might not exactly match the official English translation of the book.
I’m a grown up with a toddler child. Like other grown-ups, I’m fixated on the numbers. I can’t help it, without even realising it I’ve become one of those grown up people. And numbers matter. When I’m at the playground the first question I will ask another parent is, “how old’s your little one?”
And then I’ll compare their child’s age, weight and height to my child’s. And if there’s an obvious difference, I reflexly offer an answer as we both perform a mental calculation of comparing our children according to numbers.
Parent in playground: How old’s yours?
Me: He’s 14 months, what about you?
Parent in playground: He’s 10 months
< Does not compute. Children look the same size >
Me: Yeah, mine’s small for his age
Parent in playground: And mine’s big for his age
<End of discussion>
We naturally offer comparisons at mother’s group, and weigh in with the actual statistics just to make sure. So, for all the grown ups reading, here’s where my son falls in the game…
Age: 15 months
Height: 50th percentile
Weight: 15th percentile
Head circumference: 85th percentile
And now to the important things that grown ups somehow stopped remembering to ask along the way…
The important things:
How he shoves his mouth with food.
The kid can fit a surprising amount of food in his mouth. Sprinkle his tray with grapes, and the kid will use both hands to shovel all the grapes in his mouth using his signature open palm technique. It’s a good opportunity as a grown up to sit there and recall infant first aid and how to react to choking.
His mouth gets so full that he can’t close his mouth as he chews. Therefore, he sits there chewing with one hand covering his mouth as a gate. And then once that hand is no longer needed to control any potential food spillage, it’s then free to grab the next handful.
How he sits up in the pram.
There’s just too much of the world to be seen from the pram. Even if the pram seat is upright, he will still grip the bars on the side and lean forward. Why see the world in 180 degrees when you can open it up to 270 degrees?
And if he’s overtired and I want him to nap in the pram, Mum reclining the seat is just a cute little thing that I do (as he grips on tighter).
How he plays with the light switch
He’s discovered the light switch conveniently located for toddlers above the couch and likes to play a little game called, “Day, night. Day, night.”
How he spends hours playing with his cars.
He just loves rolling his cars around. He rolls them on the floor and on the wall. On the cat and up the stairs. Down the stairs and on the couch. Cars are his most favourite toy.
Trying to mow down the cat with his baby walker is now a close second favourite pastime.
And there it is, a snapshot of my son at 15 months. The important things that I want to remember. Not just the numbers that have been recorded in his health record book.
The next time I’m at the playground, I might try and start a conversation with an important question like, “what makes them laugh?” However, that may seem too abrupt and they might quickly try and shoo their child away from me. So I might just have to stick to the numbers. I know how to talk to grown ups.