Dear Dave

Friday 2 November 2007

They really are silent

Dear Dave,

How are you holding up? Sure, it's tough having a new baby around but Daisy is five weeks old and she should be settling in by now. You ought to be acclimatised to tiredness, lack of sleep and limited free-time. What's maybe more of an issue just at the moment, is that Liz has been on maternity leave for a couple of months.

Have you driven each other mad yet?

The first weeks after Fraser was born were quite idyllic. I was about, Sarah was about, we learnt together how to be parents. It was a bit different second time round. There was more work to be done, for a start. We were both pretty busy. Beyond that, we both felt the effects of Sarah 'invading my work space'. I had my routines and rules and schedules in place and suddenly the boss was around all the time. I had to consult on decisions and give regular progress updates. Meanwhile, Sarah wasn't sure where she fitted in and often felt a bit pointless as I rushed around getting stuff done and failed to include her in case it slowed me down.

Of course, the tiredness, lack of sleep and limited free-time didn't really help matters.

Remember to work together and discuss your needs over the next few months. If you can talk when you're both relatively awake but the children are both asleep, so much the better. (Good luck with that...)

Thankfully, Sarah and I got by without too many arguments because we're fairly agreed on the general principles of parenting. We're both trying to achieve the same goals (i.e. happy, polite children who love Jesus and physics), even if the practical methods sometimes vary wildly. Sarah likes to get the kids out and about; I'm keen to make sure they get a chance to relax at home. She maintains discipline using a points system; I tend to employ shouting and banishment. As long as we know who's in charge of the kids at any given time, however, this isn't a problem. We just have to use the methods that work for us.

There can still be issues, though. These days, our main bone of contention is usually the pronunciation of certain words. It's one of the difficulties of a mixed marriage. The kids' accents still haven't become firmly established. Will they sound Scottish or English or just confused?

Fraser brought a book home from school last week to read for homework. I think the idea is that we're meant to find a quiet spot without distraction and he's supposed to read out loud while I correct and encourage. What normally happens is that, wherever we go, the moment we get comfortable, Lewis comes in wanting to play and Marie needs the toilet. This has a tendency to divide my attention. Fraser steams on, though, whether I'm listening or not. The book was about a naughty boy whose teacher stops him misbehaving by making him responsible for policing the other pupils. Fraser was a couple of paragraphs into the book before I became aware that something was awry.

"What's the boy called again?"

He paused and squinted at the name on the page. "Rage," he said uncertainly.

"Are you sure?"

"Not really. It keeps confusing me."

I took a closer look. "His name's Raj. The book's called Raj in Charge. It rhymes."

"Oh, OK." He started reading again. He's pretty good at it and continued clearly and without hesitation until the next time he got to the name. He paused. He squinted. He made a noise like a revving motor. "Rage?" he said.

"No, Raj. To rhyme with charge."

"Raj, OK." He kept reading. Everything was fine. Then he got to the name again. Pause. Squint. Rev. "Ray... Ra... Radge?"

"Nope. Rhymes with charge."

"Raj, OK." He managed about another half a sentence before he paused for another revving squint. "Ray-a-arge?"

"Close enough."

He just about had the hang of it by the time the book was finished. It reminded me of when he was at nursery and had a friend called Conor. Fraser had never heard the name 'Conor' before and couldn't cope. He called the poor kid 'Corner' for months.

The next day at breakfast, Fraser told Sarah about the book he'd read. He waved it at her and was a little way into his account before Sarah stopped him.

"What's the boy called again?"

He paused and squinted at the front cover. "Raj," he said uncertainly.

"Are you sure?"

"Not really. It keeps confusing me."

Sarah took a closer look. "His name's Raj. It rhymes with badge."

"That's not what Daddy said."

"Daddy's from another country. He speaks funny."

"You can talk," I piped up. "You pronounce the silent 'h's in words like whistle and where."

"For the last time, they ARE NOT silent."

"They are. The old joke proves it. How do you get two whales in a car? Along the M4 and across the Severn Bridge. Doesn't work unless the 'h' is silent."

"At least when I'm talking, everyone knows which witch is which. And you can't say bath."

"I can."

"No, you can't. You say baa-th."

"That's how it's supposed to be said."

"I don't think so."

We did a quick poll of the kids - we got two ba-ths and a baa-th. Then we did the poll again and got two baa-ths and a ba-th. They're obviously pretty confused. It could have been worse, though. At least we didn't call either of the boys Luke. I pronounce the name Loo-k. Sarah pronounces it Look. Having parents who argued over how to pronounce your name, probably wouldn't be that much fun.

As Sarah says it, 'Look at Luke' sounds the same as 'Luke at look.'

That just does my head in. Then again, she can't cope with the way I say 'aunt' and 'aren't' alike. She says 'aunt' and 'ant' alike. We can debate how the children should speak for hours.

Fraser returned us to the matter in hand.

"Daddy said it's Rarge."

"Maybe that's how they say it where Daddy comes from but, round here, everyone says Radge like me. Which do you think would be better for you to use?"

I had to concede that she had a point.

"Oh, OK," said Fraser. "Raj." It was somewhere in the middle. Compromise was reached.

I don't really know why we bother, though. He was probably calling the boy Rage again by lunchtime.

We'll have to wait and see what kind of hybrid accent the kids eventually settle on. They've all picked up different bits and pieces. Maybe I should do some more experiments. I think I'll start by getting Fraser to read out, 'Look, Luke, wear ants where aunts aren't," very fast a few times. That should be good for a laugh... (Or is that laff?)

All the best with finding your own compromises and staying sane.

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...

Don't worry, my auntie has the antidote... :-)

DadsDinner said...

Ooh, old jokes used against me. I wasn't expecting that. I'd better go check for elephants in the fridge...