Little A and the Ray-Ray

Uh oh, I forgot to write. Actually, I didn’t forget at all…I was just too tired. Blogging is lower than sleeping on my ‘to do’ list (but higher than tweezing eyebrows). It’s actually China’s fault. Its language is too difficult and I need every spare second I have to learn how to write “starch” in Chinese. This was a word we learned in class today and it almost sparked a riot as it turns out most people didn’t even know what it meant in English and felt unmoved to commit it to memory in Chinese. I will admit that ‘starch’ (or 淀粉 as the Chinese say) wouldn’t be on my top thousand most useful words to know but I am somewhat surprised that this was the word upon which my fellow classmates chose to fixate. I would have thought that the chapters in which we were instructed to learn the words for ‘greasepaint’, ‘chrysanthemum’ or ‘turtle’ would have provided a more natural point of complaint. Actually, I use the word ‘turtle’ quite a lot in my every day dialogue as Little A has a reptilian bath pal that goes by that moniker (well, it’s more like ‘too-too’) but I also use the word ‘teletubby’ on a near daily basis and yet feel no need to be able to say it in Chinese. Despite this, I do know the Chinese word for Teletubby as Ayi helpfully told me yesterday (unsolicited) but I have mostly wiped that conversation from my memory as I object to the notion that La-la is called something different in Chinese i.e. something other than La-la.

So, big news here in Shanghai…Little A has learned to speak. Mostly English, some Chinese, a bit of Random. He’s been saying ‘Mama’ and ‘Daddy’ for a while. Sadly, he seems to be slipping away from ‘Mama’ and towards ‘Mammy’ without taking into consideration my firm belief that I am not a ‘Mammy’. Don’t see myself as a ‘Mummy’ or a ‘Mommy’ either so hoping this is one of the words he sticks with the Chinese for (conveniently ‘Mama’). His first few words after that were generally unsurprising - bottle (bobo), no (nononononono), food (foo), raisin (ray-ray), bath (ba), Teletubbies (la-la), water (wawa), the aforementioned turtle, all types of vehicles (choo-choo, ka, baish), a whole host of body parts most of which are contained in the lyrics of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, doggie, bird, socks and also the one word that highlights his Irishness…tea. He’s also got a few odd ones in there - ‘umbrella’ (bella) is a favourite and for a while I thought he was saying ‘cheese’ but eventually realized, to my horror, that he was actually saying ‘Jesus’. Have made strong mental note to watch my language. The word ‘uh-oh’ is also a good one and covers a multitude of sins, many of which involve food in places that are not designed to hold food e.g. my pencil case. He can also count up to six, but excluding five (wah-too-sree-foe-sis).

There are a few Chinese words in there. He says ‘xiexie’ which means thank you (because clearly only the Chinese speakers in his life intend to teach him manners). The Chinese think he’s hilarious and he says ‘xiexie’ to pretty much everyone he comes across in the hope that after he says it, they give him food. They often do so it isn’t a bad strategy. Bizarrely, if I tell him to ‘say thank you’ he says ‘xiexie’ so I think he knows that they mean the same thing. He also says ‘shou’ (hand) in Chinese as well as ‘duzi’ (tummy) and ‘meimei’ (younger female friend/sister). And tonight when I said it was time for bed he said ‘bu yao’ which means ‘don’t want’ which now means he has two languages in which to say ‘no’. Great.

It’s a pretty limited dictionary for the moment but as long as people know when he wants ray-ray (all the time) then he’s happy. He had his first full-blown toddler tantrum this morning in the kitchen because I wouldn’t give him ray-ray for breakfast and tried to pawn him off with some other kind of foo. I tried to compromise by adding some ray-ray into his other foo but this was not the correct thing to do as I subsequently discovered when faced with the full force of his outrage that I would desecrate a ray-ray by mixing it into other foo. He spent a full twenty minutes in complete meltdown - head back, red face, wailing RAY-RAY over and over again while shaking the table with his hands. I was totally mesmerized and transfixed by the sheer depth of his raisin rage. It seemed limitless. I think I might have been slightly less amused by the whole thing if it had happened in public or if I had been under huge pressure to get out on time. Presumably the public meltdowns are coming to a supermarket/restaurant/bus near me soon. I don’t think I’ll mind too much though because everyone is staring shamelessly at him/us anyway - although the floor is very dirty in China so I hope he has the good sense to tantrum upright.
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