Janet Christie: French lessons in life from Middle Child

What are we going to do about Youngest Child's French?' I say to the boys.
Janet Christie. Picture: Lisa FergusonJanet Christie. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Janet Christie. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

“I’ll talk to her,” says Middle. “I know about this. It’s hard when you’re at school and you can’t see the point of things. But when you get to my age, suddenly you’re interested. I’ll tell her it’ll be useful in life,” he says.

“I’ve told her that,” I say.

“That she will be interested in their culture, music, the films…”

“Said that too,” I say.

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“How one day she might be like me and fancy living there and be thinking I wish I’d paid more attention at school...

“Fancy living there?” I say to him. “As in, you might one day leave home?”

“Yes. I’ve been listening to accordion music a lot, thinking about cafes, Sartre…”

Hm. But not about jobs to pay for a bijou apartment in Montmartre...

“Remember when you took me to Paris cos I was rubbish at French?” he says.

“Yes, as a punishment, that backfired, like all my punishments.”

“No, it worked because now I want to live there.”

“No it didn’t, because you still can’t speak the language.”

“Anyway, we need to make French fun for Youngest Child,” he says.

“Fun? She went on the school trip to Disneyland Paris! Cost me an arm and a leg,” I say. “I can’t afford much more fun.”

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I remember she returned with a bag full of Disney tat and a sob story about Mickey Mouse.

“I felt sorry for him and Minnie, standing all day and having their pictures taken with all those children,” she said. “I bet they never thought when they were at school that one day their jobs would be wearing giant mouse costumes. That’s no fun. No way for an adult to live.”

I don’t know. There are worse jobs. And I can see Middle Child in a mouse costume. A plan forms...

Middle Child, it’s time to find out. Is he a man or a mouse?