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How Do French People…?

By the midpoint of this article all those people who homeschool their children will probably be giving themselves a big pat on the back. The strange thing is that I might not blame them.

The following conversation took place over dinner a couple of nights ago. My five year old son had a few questions for my wife and myself.

Son: “Daddy, next year am I going to go to French school or English school?”

Dad: “Probably French school. We’re not sure yet but we think we’ll have you go to the French school.” *

Son: “How do French people say ‘Hello’?”

Dad: “They say ‘Bonjour!’ It means, ‘Good day!’ Sometimes they say, ‘Salut!’ instead.”

Son: “Bonjour! How do French people say “Goodbye?”

Dad: “Au revoir!”

Son: “Au revoir! How do French people say, ‘storm the castle?’”

Dad: “You know what? I don’t even know.”

Son: “Oh. How do French people kiss?”

Dad & Mom: “What!?”

Son: “How do French people kiss?”

Dad: “I don’t think you need to know that. You’re only five and there are some things that mommies and daddies can know but five year olds don’t really need to know. We’ll talk about that when you’re a little bit older.”

Son: “I think I know.”

Dad: “You do?”

Son: “I can’t believe they stick their tongues…”

Dad: “STOP!”

We had a little chat with him and found out that Jack, a little boy who goes to school with my son, decided to share this knowledge with him and some of the other children in the class. They are in a mixed junior/senior kindergarten class. In other words, they are all four or five years old.

Now obviously my wife and I know that in our role as parents we will have a few of these awkward moments throughout the years. They come with the territory. Every parent is caught unprepared at times. But we were quite unprepared to have one of these moments when he was only five. Thankfully he did not seem to think much more about it, believing it is just some silly thing that French people do. I hope his little mind just forgets all about it for at least another few years.

After discussing the situation, my wife and I decided that she ought to speak to my son’s teacher just to let her know what had happened. We were gratified to discover that the teacher was horrified and stated that in all her years of being a teacher (and she is retiring after this year so has been doing this for a while!) she has never heard a child that age use the term with knowledge of what it means. She said to my wife, “What on earth are parents telling their children these days?” My wife suggested that perhaps Jack has an older brother who has being a negative influence, but the teacher corrected her, pointing out that Jack has only one sibling and that he is younger. The teacher said that she will speak with Jack’s parents and will also have to make the situation known to the principal.

I suspect the real question is “what are parents allowing their children to watch these days?” I am sure that it is not entirely unusual for small children to have such knowledge. We live in a culture which is becoming increasingly sexualized and pornified (to borrow a term from Pamela Paul’s * – In Canada there are several options for education. Public and Catholic schools are provided by the government and are paid for by taxes. Christian and private education is available but not subsidized by the government so is expensive ($8000/year for the local Christian school). Within the public system parents can choose between standard education or French immersion. We are likely to send our children to French immersion (half of classes are taught in English and the other half in French) because the schools tend to be a little more conservative and the standards of education are a little bit higher. Parents can also homeschool if they so desire.

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